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Reprinted with some alterations from: 

Right and Wrong: A Clue to the Meaning of the Universe 


What Christians Believe 

C . S . L E W I S 

author of the ‘The Problem of Pam tf ‘The Screwtape Letters’ 


Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis (first published as a unit in 1952). 

The content of this book was adapted from a series of BBC radio talks made 
by Lewis between 1942 and 1944. 

Text OCRd by Copper Kettle aka T.A.G, 2003-12-21. Yekaterinburg. 

Revised by vladioan 

Samizdat, February 2014 (public domain under Canadian copyright law) 

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Preface 1 

Book I 

Right and Wrong as a Clue to The Meaning 
of The Universe 

1. The Law of Human Nature 8 

2. Some Objections 11 

3. The Reality of the Law 14 

4. What Lies Behind the Law 17 

5. We Have Cause to Be Uneasy 20 

Book II 

What Christians Believe 

1. The Rival Conceptions Of God 24 

2. The Invasion 26 

3. The Shocking Alternative 29 

4. The Perfect Penitent 32 

5. The Practical Conclusion 36 

Book III 

Christian Behaviour 

1. The Three Parts Of Morality 41 

2. The "Cardinal Virtues" 44 

3. Social Morality 47 

4. Morality and Psychoanalysis 50 

5. Sexual Morality 53 

6. Christian Marriage 58 

7. Forgiveness 64 

8. The Great Sin 67 

9. Charity 71 

10. Hope 73 

11. Faith 75 

12. Faith 78 

Book IV 

Beyond Personality: Or First Steps in the Doctrine 
of the Trinity 

1. Making and Begetting 


2. The Three-Personal God 


3. Time And Beyond Time 


4. Good Infection 


5. The Obstinate Toy Soldiers 


6. Two Notes 


7. Let's Pretend 


8. Is Christianity Hard or Easy? 


9. Counting The Cost 


10. Nice People Or New Men 


11. The New Men 



T he contents of this book were first given on the air, and then published 
in three separate parts as The Case for Christianity (1943), 1 Christian 
Behaviour (1943), and Beyond Personality (1945). In the printed ver¬ 
sions I made a few additions to what I had said at the microphone, but oth- 
erwise left the text much as it had been. A "talk" on the radio should, I think, 
be as like real talk as possible, and should not sound like an essay being read 
aloud. In my talks I had therefore used all the contractions and colloquialisms 
I ordinarily use in conversation. In the printed version I reproduced this, put¬ 
ting don't and we've for do not and we have. And wherever, in the talks, I had 
made the importance of a word clear by the emphasis of my voice, I printed 
it in italics. 

I am now inclined to think that this was a mistake — an undesirable hybrid 
between the art of speaking and the art of writing. A talker ought to use vari¬ 
ations of voice for emphasis because his medium naturally lends itself to that 
method: but a writer ought not to use italics for the same purpose. He has his 
own, different, means of bringing out the key words and ought to use them. 
In this edition I have expanded the contractions and replaced most of the ital¬ 
ics by recasting the sentences in which they occurred: but without altering, I 
hope, the "popular" or "familiar" tone which I had all along intended. I have 
also added and deleted where I thought I understood any part of my subject 
better now than ten years ago or where I knew that the original version had 
been misunderstood by others. 

The reader should be warned that I offer no help to anyone who is hesi- 
tating between two Christian "denominations." You will not learn from me 
whether you ought to become an Anglican, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, or 
a Roman Catholic. 

This omission is intentional (even in the list I have just given the order is 
alphabetical). There is no mystery about my own position. I am a very ordi- 
nary layman of the Church of England, not especially "high," nor especially 
"low," nor especially anything else. But in this book I am not trying to convert 
anyone to my own position. Ever since I became a Christian I have thought 
that the hest, perhaps the only, service I could do for my unbelieving neigh- 

1 - Published in England under the title Broadcast Talks. 

bours was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly 
all Christians at all times. I had more than one reason for thinking this. In 
the first place, the questions which divide Christians from one another often 
involve points of high Theology or even of ecclesiastical history which ought 
never to be treated except by real experts. 

I should have been out of my depth in such waters: more in need of help 
myself than able to help others. And secondly, I think we must admit that the 
discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider 
into the Christian fold. So long as we write and talk about them we are much 
more likely to deter him from entering any Christian communion than to 
draw him into our own. Our divisions should never be discussed except in the 
presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and 
that Jesus Christ is His only Son. Finally, I got the impression that far more, 
and more talented, authors were already engaged in such controversial mat¬ 
ters than in the defence of what Baxter calls "mere" Christianity. That part of 
the line where I thought I could serve best was also the part that seemed to be 
thinnest. And to it I naturally went. 

So far as I know, these were my only motives, and I should be very glad if 
people would not draw fanciful inferences from my silence on certain dis¬ 
puted matters. 

For example, such silence need not mean that I myself am sitting on the 
fence. Sometimes I am. There are questions at issue between Christians to 
which I do not think I have the answer. There are some to which I may never 
know the answer: if I asked them, even in a better world, I might (for all I 
know) be answered as a far greater questioner was answered: "What is that 
to thee? Follow thou Me." But there are other questions as to which I am 
definitely on one side of the fence, and yet say nothing. For I was not writ- 
ing to expound something I could call "my religion," but to expound "mere" 
Christianity, which is what it is and was what it was long before I was born 
and whether I like it or not. 

Some people draw unwarranted conclusions from the faet that I never say 
more about the Blessed Virgin Mary than is involved in asserting the Virgin 
Birth of Christ. But surely my reason for not doing so is obvious? To say more 
would take me at once into highly controversial regions. And there is no con- 
troversy between Christians which needs to be so delicately touched as this. 
The Roman Catholic beliefs on that subject are held not only with the ordi- 
nary fervour that attaches to all sincere religious belief, but (very naturally) 
with the peculiar and, as it were, chivalrous sensibility that a man feels when 
the honour of his mother or his beloved is at stake. 

It is very difficult so to dissent from them that you will not appear to them 
a cad as well as a heretic. And contrariwise, the opposed Protestant beliefs on 
this subject call forth feelings which go down to the very roots of all Mono- 
theism whatever. To radical Protestants it seems that the distinetion between 


Creator and creature (however holy) is imperilled: that Polytheism is risen 
again. Hence it is hard so to dissent from them that you will not appear some- 
thing worse than a heretic — an idolater, a Pagan. If any topic could be relied 
upon to wreck a book about "mere" Christianity — if any topic makes utterly 
unprofitable reading for those who do not yet believe that the Virgin's son is 
God — surely this is it. 

Oddly enough, you cannot even conclude, from my silence on disputed 
points, either that I think them important or that I think them unimportant. 
For this is itself one of the disputed points. One of the things Christians are 
disagreed about is the importance of their disagreements. When two Chris¬ 
tians of different denominations start arguing, it is usually not long before 
one asks whether such-and-such a point "really matters" and the other replies: 
"Matter? Why, it's absolutely essential." 

All this is said simply in order to make clear what kind of book I was trying 
to write; not in the least to conceal or evade responsibility for my own beliefs. 
About those, as I said before, there is no secret. To quote Uncle Toby: "They 
are written in the Common-Prayer Book." 

The danger dearly was that I should put forward as common Christianity 
anything that was peculiar to the Church of England or (worse still) to myself. 

I tried to guard against this by sending the original script of what is now Book 

II to four clergymen (Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic) 
and asking for their criticism. The Methodist thought I had not said enough 
about Faith, and the Roman Catholic thought I had gone rather too far about 
the comparative unimportance of theories in explanation of the Atonement. 
Otherwise all five of us were agreed. I did not have the remaining books simi- 
larly "vetted" because in them, though differences might arise among Chris¬ 
tians, these would be differences between individuals or schools of thought, 
not between denominations. 

So far as I can judge from reviews and from the numerous letters writ¬ 
ten to me, the book, however faulty in other respects, did at least succeed in 
presenting an agreed, or common, or central, or "mere" Christianity. In that 
way it may possibly be of some help in silencing the view that, if we omit 
the disputed points, we shall have left only a vague and bloodless H.C.F. The 
H.C.F. turns out to be something not only positive but pungent; divided from 
all non-Christian beliefs by a chasm to which the worst divisions inside Chris- 
tendom are not really comparable at all. 

If I have not directly helped the cause of reunion, I have perhaps made 
it clear why we ought to be reunited. Certainly I have met with little of 
the fabled odium theologicum from convinced members of communions 
different from my own. Hostility has come more from borderline people 
whether within the Church of England or without it: men not exactly obe- 
dient to any communion. This I find curiously consoling. It is at her centre, 
where her truest children dwell, that each communion is really closest to 


every other in spirit, if not in doctrine. And this suggests that at the centre 
of each there is something, or a Someone, who against all divergences of 
belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual persecution, 
speaks with the same voice. 

So much for my omissions on doctrine. In Book III, which deals with mor¬ 
als, I have also passed over some things in silence, but for a different reason. 
Ever since I served as an infantryman in the first world war I have had a great 
dislike of people who, themselves in ease and safety, issue exhortations to men 
in the front line. As a result I have a reluctance to say much about temptations 
to which I myself am not exposed. No man, I suppose, is tempted to every sin. 
It so happens that the impulse which makes men gamble has been left out of 
my make-up; and, no doubt, I pay for this by lacking some good impulse of 
which it is the excess or perversion. I therefore did not feel myself qualified 
to give advice about permissable and impermissable gambling: if there is any 
permissable, for I do not claim to know even that. I have also said nothing 
about birth-control. I am not a woman nor even a married man, nor am I a 
priest. I did not think it my place to take a firm line about pains, dangers and 
expenses from which I am protected; having no pastoral office which obliged 
me to do so. 

Far deeper obj eet ions may be felt — and have been expressed — against my 
use of the word Christian to mean one who accepts the common doctrines of 
Christianity. People ask: "Who are you, to lay down who is, and who is not a 
Christian?" or "May not many a man who cannot believe these doctrines be 
far more truly a Christian, far doser to the spirit of Christ, than some who 
do?" Now this objection is in one sense very right, very charitable, very spir¬ 
itual, very sensitive. It has every amiable quality except that of being useful. 
We simply cannot, without disaster, use language as these objectors want us 
to use it. I will try to make this clear by the history of another, and very much 
less important, word. 

The word gentleman originally meant something recognisable; one who 
had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone "a 
gentleman" you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a faet. 
If you said he was not "a gentleman" you were not insulting him, but giving 
information. There was no contradiction in saying that John was a har and a 
gentleman; any more than there now is in saying that James is a fool and an 
M.A. But then there came people who said-so rightly, charitably, spiritually, 
sensitively, so anything but usefully — "Ah, but surely the important thing 
about a gentleman is not the coat of arms and the land, but the behaviour? 
Surely he is the true gentleman who behaves as a gentleman should? Surely in 
that sense Edward is far more truly a gentleman than John?" 

They meant well. To be honourable and courteous and brave is of course a 
far better thing than to have a coat of arms. But it is not the same thing. Worse 
still, it is not a thing everyone will agree about. To call a man "a gentleman" 


in this new, refined sense, becomes, in faet, not a way of giving information 
about him, but a way of praising him: to deny that he is "a gentleman" be¬ 
comes simply a way of insulting him. When a word ceases to be a term of 
description and becomes merely a term of praise, it no longer tells you facts 
about the object: it only tells you about the speakers attitude to that object. 
(A "nice" meal only means a meal the speaker likes.) A gentleman, once it has 
been spiritualised and refined out of its old coarse, objective sense, means 
hardly more than a man whom the speaker likes. As a result, gentleman is 
now a useless word. We had lots of terms of approval already, so it was not 
needed for that use; on the other hånd if anyone (say, in a historical work) 
wants to use it in its old sense, he cannot do so without explanations. It has 
been spoiled for that purpose. 

Now if once we allow people to start spiritualising and refining, or as they 
might say "deepening," the sense of the word Christian, it too will speedily 
become a useless word. In the first place, Christians themselves will never be 
able to apply it to anyone. It is not for us to say who, in the deepest sense, is or 
is not close to the spirit of Christ. We do not see into mens hearts. We cannot 
judge, and are indeed forbidden to judge. 

It would be wicked arrogance for us to say that any man is, or is not, a 
Christian in this refined sense. And obviously a word which we can never 
apply is not going to be a very useful word. As for the unbelievers, they will 
no doubt cheerfully use the word in the refined sense. It will become in their 
mouths simply a term of praise. In calling anyone a Christian they will mean 
that they think him a good man. But that way of using the word will be no en- 
richment of the language, for we already have the word good. Meanwhile, the 
word Christian will have been spoiled for any really useful purpose it might 
have served. 

We must therefore stick to the original, obvious meaning. The name Chris¬ 
tians was first given at Antioch (Acts xi. 26) to "the disciples," to those who ac¬ 
cepted the teaching of the apostles. Ihere is no question of its being restricted 
to those who profited by that teaching as mueh as they should have. There is 
no question of its being extended to those who in some refined, spiritual, in- 
ward fashion were "far doser to the spirit of Christ" than the less satisfactory 
of the disciples. The point is not a theological, or moral one. It is only a ques¬ 
tion of using words so that we can all understand what is being said. When 
a man who accepts the Christian doctrine lives unworthily of it, it is mueh 
clearer to say he is a bad Christian than to say he is not a Christian. 

I hope no reader will suppose that "mere" Christianity is here put forward 
as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions — as if a man could 
adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything 
else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can 
bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the 
rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a 


place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to 
live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I 
think, preferable. 

It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a con- 
siderable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must 
knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps 
no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do 
get into your room you will find that the long wait has done you some kind 
of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as 
waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, 
even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common 
to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true 
one; not which pleases you hest by its paint and paneling. 

In plain language, the question should never be: "Do I like that kind of 
service?" but "Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience 
move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, 
or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?" 

When you have reached your own room, be kind to those Who have cho- 
sen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong 
they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you 
are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the 
whole house. 


Book I 

Right and Wrong as a Clue to 
The Meaning of The Universe 


E very one has heard people quarrelling. Sometimes it sounds funny and 
sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I be- 
lieve we can learn something very important from listening to the kind 
of things they say. They say things like this: "How'd you like it if anyone did 
the same to you?" — "That's my seat, I was there first" — "Leave him alone, 
he isn't doing you any harm" — "Why should you shove in first?" — "Give me 
a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine" — "Come on, you promised." 
People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, 
and children as well as grown-ups. Now what interests me about all these 
remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other 
mans behaviour does not happen to piease him. He is appealing to some kind 
of standard of behaviour which he expects the other man to know about. And 
the other man very seldom replies: "To hell with your standard." Nearly always 
he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the 
standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is 
some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat 
first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given 
the bit of orange, or that something has turned up which lets him off keeping 
his promise. It looks, in faet, very mueh as if both parties had in mind some 
kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behaviour or morality or whatever 
you like to call it, about which they really agreed. And they have. If they had 
not, they might, of course, fight like animals, but they could not quarrel in the 
human sense of the word. Quarrelling means trying to show that the other 
man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless 
you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are; just 
as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul 
unless there was some agreement about the rules of football. 

Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law 
of Nature. Nowadays, when we talk of the "laws of nature" we usually mean 
things like gravitation, or heredity, or the laws of chemistry. But when the 
older thinkers called the Law of Right and Wrong "the Law of Nature," they 
really meant the Law of Human Nature. The idea was that, just as all bodies 
are governed by the law of gravitation and organisms by biological laws, so 
the creature called man also had his law — with this great difference, that a 
body could not choose whether it obeyed the law of gravitation or not, but a 
man could choose either to obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it. 

We may put this in another way. Each man is at every moment subjected to 
several different sets of law but there is only one of these which he is free to 
disobey. As a body, he is subjected to gravitation and cannot disobey it; if you 
leave him unsupported in mid-air, he has no more choice about falling than 
a stone has. As an organism, he is subjected to various biological laws which 


he cannot disobey any more than an animal can. That is, he cannot disobey 
those laws which he shares with other things; but the law which is peculiar 
to his human nature, the law he does not share with animals or vegetables or 
inorganic things, is the one he can disobey if he chooses. 

This law was called the Law of Nature because people thought that every 
one knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it. They did not mean, of 
course, that you might not find an odd individual here and there who did not 
know it, just as you find a few people who are colour-blind or have no ear for 
a tune. But taking the race as a whole, they thought that the human idea of 
decent behaviour was obvious to every one. And I believe they were right. If 
they were not, then all the things we said about the war were nonsense. What 
was the sense in saying the enemy were in the wrong unless Right is a real 
thing which the Nazis at bottom knew as well as we did and ought to have 
practised? If they had had no notion of what we mean by right, then, though 
we might still have had to fight them, we could no more have blamed them for 
that than for the colour of their hair. 

I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature or decent behav¬ 
iour known to all men is unsound, because different civilisations and different 
ages have had quite different moralities. 

But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, 
but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone 
will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyp- 
tians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans, what will really 
strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own. Some 
of the evidence for this I have put together in the appendix of another book 
called The Abolition of Man; but for our present purpose I need only ask the 
reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a coun¬ 
try where people were admired for running away in battie, or where a man 
felt proud of double-Crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You 
might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made frve. Men 
have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to — whether 
it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But 
they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness 
has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one 
wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any 
woman you liked. 

But the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says 
he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man 
going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if 
you try breaking one to him he will be complaining "If s not fair" before you 
can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties do not matter, but then, next 
minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to 
break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such 



thing as Right and Wrong — in other words, if there is no Law of Nature — 
what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one? Have they not 
let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know 
the Law of Nature just like anyone else? 

It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong. People 
may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their 
sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more 
than the multiplication table. Now if we are agreed about that, I go on to my 
next point, which is this. None of us are really keeping the Law of Nature. If 
there are any exceptions among you, I apologise to them. They had much bet- 
ter read some other work, for nothing I am going to say concerns them. And 
now, turning to the ordinary human beings who are left: 

I hope you will not misunderstand what I am going to say. I am not preach- 
ing, and Heaven knows I do not pretend to be better than anyone else. I am 
only trying to call attention to a faet; the faet that this year, or this month, 
or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of 
behaviour we expect from other people. There may be all sorts of excuses for 
us. That time you were so unfair to the children was when you were very tired. 
That slightly shady business about the money — the one you have almost for- 
gotten — came when you were very hard up. And what you promised to do 
for old So-and-so and have never done — well, you never would have prom¬ 
ised if you had known how frightfully busy you were going to be. And as for 
your behaviour to your wife (or husband) or sister (or brother) if I knew how 
irritating they could be, I would not wonder at it — and who the dickens am I, 
anyway? I am just the same. That is to say, I do not succeed in keeping the Law 
of Nature very well, and the moment anyone tells me I am not keeping it, there 
starts up in my mind a string of excuses as long as your arm. The question at 
the moment is not whether they are good excuses. The point is that they are 
one more proof of how deeply, whether we like it or not, we believe in the Law 
of Nature. If we do not believe in decent behaviour, why should we be so anx- 
ious to make excuses for not having behaved decently? The truth is, we believe 
in decency so much — we feel the Rule or Law pressing on us so — that we 
cannot bear to face the faet that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to 
shift the responsibility. For you notice that it is only for our bad behaviour that 
we find all these explanations. It is only our bad temper that we put down to 
being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves. 

These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, 
all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain 
way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in faet behave in 
that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the 
foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in. 




I f they are the foundation, I had better stop to make that foundation firm 
before I go on. Some of the letters I have had show that a good many peo- 
ple find it difhcult to understand just what this Law of Human Nature, or 
Moral Law, or Rule of Decent Behaviour is. 

For example, some people wrote to me saying, "Isn't what you call the Moral 
Law simply our herd instinet and hasn't it been developed just like all our 
other instinets?" Now I do not deny that we may have a herd instinet: but 
that is not what I mean by the Moral Law. We all know what it feels like to 
be prompted by instinet — by mother love, or sexual instinet, or the instinet 
for food. It means that you feel a strong want or desire to act in a certain way. 
And, of course, we sometimes do feel just that sort of desire to help another 
person: and no doubt that desire is due to the herd instinet. But feeling a de¬ 
sire to help is quite different from feeling that you ought to help whether you 
want to or not. Supposing you hear a cry for help from a man in danger. You 
will probably feel two desires — one a desire to give help (due to your herd 
instinet), the other a desire to keep out of danger (due to the instinet for self- 
preservation). But you will find inside you, in addition to these two impulses, 
a third thing which tells you that you ought to follow the impulse to help, and 
suppress the impulse to run away. Now this thing that judges between two 
instinets, that decides which should be encouraged, cannot itself be either of 
them. You might as well say that the sheet of music which tells you, at a given 
moment, to play one note on the piano and not another, is itself one of the 
notes on the keyboard. The Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play: our 
instinets are merely the keys. 

Another way of seeing that the Moral Law is not simply one of our instinets 
is this. If two instinets are in conflict, and there is nothing in a creature's 
mind except those two instinets, obviously the stronger of the two must win. 
But at those moments when we are most conscious of the Moral Law, it usu- 
ally seems to be telling us to side with the weaker of the two impulses. You 
probably want to be safe mueh more than you want to help the man who is 
drowning: but the Moral Law tells you to help him all the same. And surely 
it often tells us to try to make the right impulse stronger than it naturally is? 
I mean, we often feel it our duty to stimulate the herd instinet, by waking up 
our imaginations and arousing our pity and so on, so as to get up enough 
steam for doing the right thing. But clearly we are not acting from instinet 
when we set about making an instinet stronger than it is. The thing that says 
to you, "Your herd instinet is asleep. Wake it up," cannot itself be the herd 
instinet. The thing that tells you which note on the piano needs to be played 
louder cannot itself be that note. 

Here is a third way of seeing it If the Moral Law was one of our instinets, 
we ought to be able to point to some one impulse inside us which was always 



what we call "good," always in agreement with the rule of right behaviour. 
But you cannot. There is none of our impulses which the Moral Law may not 
sometimes tell us to suppress, and none which it may not sometimes tell us 
to encourage. It is a mistake to think that some of our impulses — say mother 
love or patriotism — are good, and others, like sex or the fighting instinet, 
are bad. All we mean is that the occasions on which the fighting instinet or 
the sexual desire need to be restrained are rather more frequent than those 
for restraining mother love or patriotism. But there are situations in which 
it is the duty of a married man to encourage his sexual impulse and of a sol- 
dier to encourage the fighting instinet. There are also occasions on which a 
mother's love for her own children or a mans love for his own country have to 
be suppressed or they will lead to unfairness towards other people's children 
or countries. Strictly speaking, there are no such things as good and bad im¬ 
pulses. Think once again of a piano. It has not got two kinds of notes on it, the 
"right" notes and the "wrong" ones. Every single note is right at one time and 
wrong at another. The Moral Law is not any one instinet or any set of instinets: 
it is something which makes a kind of tune (the tune we call goodness or right 
conduct) by directing the instinets. 

By the way, this point is of great practical consequence. The most dangerous 
thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as 
the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is not one of them which will 
not make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide. You might think 
love of humanity in general was safe, but it is not. If you leave out justice you 
will find yourself breaking agreements and faking evidence in trials "for the 
sake of humanity," and become in the end a eruel and treacherous man. 

Other people wrote to me saying, "Isn't what you call the Moral Law just a 
social convention, something that is put into us by education?" I think there is 
a misunderstanding here. The people who ask that question are usually taking 
it for granted that if we have learned a thing from parents and teachers, then 
that thing must be merely a human invention. But, of course, that is not so. 
We all learned the multiplication table at school. A child who grew up alone 
on a desert island would not know it. But surely it does not follow that the 
multiplication table is simply a human convention, something human beings 
have made up for themselves and might have made different if they had liked? 
I fully agree that we learn the Rule of Decent Behaviour from parents and 
teachers, and friends and books, as we learn everything else. But some of the 
things we learn are mere conventions which might have been different — we 
learn to keep to the leff of the road, but it might just as well have been the rule 
to keep to the right — and others of them, like mathematics, are real truths. 
The question is to which class the Law of Human Nature belongs. 

There are two reasons for saying it belongs to the same class as mathemat¬ 
ics. The first is, as I said in the first chapter, that though there are differences 
between the moral ideas of one time or country and those of another, the dif- 



ferences are not really very great — not nearly so great as most people imagine 
— and you can recognise the same law running through them all: whereas 
mere conventions, like the rule of the road or the kind of clothes people wear, 
may differ to any extent. The other reason is this. When you think about these 
differences between the morality of one people and another, do you think that 
the morality of one people is ever better or worse than that of another? Have 
any of the changes been improvements? If not, then of course there could 
never be any moral progress. Progress means not just changing, but chang- 
ing for the better. If no set of moral ideas were truer or better than any other, 
there would be no sense in preferring civilised morality to savage morality, or 
Christian morality to Nazi morality. In faet, of course, we all do believe that 
some moralities are better than others. We do believe that some of the people 
who tried to change the moral ideas of their own age were what we would call 
Reformers or Pioneers — people who understood morality better than their 
neighbours did. Very well then. The moment you say that one set of moral 
ideas can be better than another, you are, in faet, measuring them both by a 
standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than 
the other. But the standard that measures two things is something different 
from either. You are, in faet, comparing them both with some Real Moral¬ 
ity, admitting that there is such a thing as a real Right, independent of what 
people think, and that some people's ideas get nearer to that real Right than 
others. Or put it this way. If your moral ideas can be truer, and those of the 
Nazis less true, there must be something — some Real Morality — for them 
to be true about. The reason why your idea of New York can be truer or less 
true than mine is that New York is a real place, existing quite apart from what 
either of us thinks. If when each of us said "New York" each meant merely 
"The town I am imagining in my own head," how could one of us have truer 
ideas than the other? There would be no question of truth or falsehood at all. 
In the same way, if the Rule of Decent Behaviour meant simply "whatever each 
nation happens to approve," there would be no sense in saying that any one 
nation had ever been more correct in its approval than any other; no sense in 
saying that the world could ever grow morally better or morally worse. 

I conclude then, that though the differences between people's ideas of De¬ 
cent Behaviour often make you suspect that there is no real natural Law of 
Behaviour at all, yet the things we are bound to think about these differences 
really prove just the opposite. But one word before I end. I have met people 
who exaggerate the differences, because they have not distinguished between 
differences of morality and differences of belief about facts. For example, one 
man said to me, "Three hundred years ago people in England were putting 
witches to death. Was that what you call the Rule of Human Nature or Right 
Conduct?" But surely the reason we do not execute witches is that we do not 
believe there are such things. If we did — if we really thought that there were 
people going about who had sold themselves to the devil and received super - 



natural powers from him in return and were using these powers to kill their 
neighbours or drive them mad or bring bad weather, surely we would all agree 
that if anyone deserved the death penalty, then these filthy quislings did. There 
is no difference of moral principle here: the difference is simply about matter 
of faet. It may be a great advance in knowledge not to believe in witches: there 
is no moral advance in not executing them when you do not think they are 
there. You would not call a man humane for ceasing to set mousetraps if he 
did so because he believed there were no mice in the house. 


I now go back to what I said at the end of the first chapter, that there were 
two odd things about the human race. First, that they were haunted by 
the idea of a sort of behaviour they ought to practise, what you might call 
fair play, or decency, or morality, or the Law of Nature. Second, that they did 
not in faet do so. Now some of you may wonder why I called this odd. It may 
seem to you the most natural thing in the world. In particular, you may have 
thought I was rather hard on the human race. After all, you may say, what I 
call breaking the Law of Right and Wrong or of Nature, only means that peo- 
ple are not perfeet. And why on earth should I expect them to be? That would 
be a good answer if what I was trying to do was to fix the exact amount of 
blame which is due to us for not behaving as we expect others to behave. But 
that is not my job at all. I am not concerned at present with blame; I am trying 
to find out truth. And from that point of view the very idea of something be- 
ing imperfeet, of its not being what it ought to be, has certain consequences. 

If you take a thing like a stone or a tree, it is what it is and there seems no 
sense in saying it ought to have been otherwise. Of course you may say a 
stone is "the wrong shape" if you want to use it for a rockery, or that a tree is a 
bad tree because it does not give you as mueh shade as you expected. But all 
you mean is that the stone or tree does not happen to be convenient for some 
purpose of your own. You are not, except as a joke, blaming them for that. You 
really know, that, given the weather and the soil, the tree could not have been 
any different. What we, from our point of view, call a "bad" tree is obeying the 
laws of its nature just as mueh as a "good" one. 

Now have you noticed what follows? It follows that what we usually call the 
laws of nature — the way weather works on a tree for example — may not re¬ 
ally be laws in the strict sense, but only in a manner of speaking. When you 
say that falling stones always obey the law of gravitation, is not this mueh the 
same as saying that the law only means "what stones always do"? You do not 
really think that when a stone is let go, it suddenly remembers that it is under 
orders to fail to the ground. You only mean that, in faet, it does fali. In other 
words, you cannot be sure that there is anything over and above the facts 



themselves, any law about what ought to happen, as distinet from what does 
happen. The laws of nature, as applied to stones or trees, may only mean "what 
Nature, in faet, does." But if you turn to the Law of Human Nature, the Law 
of Decent Behaviour, it is a different matter. That law certainly does not mean 
"what human beings, in faet, do"; for as I said before, many of them do not 
obey this law at all, and none of them obey it completely. The law of gravity 
tells you what stones do if you drop them; but the Law of Human Nature tells 
you what human beings ought to do and do not. In other words, when you are 
dealing with humans, something else comes in above and beyond the actual 
facts. You have the facts (how men do behave) and you also have something 
else (how they ought to behave). In the rest of the universe there need not be 
anything but the facts. Electrons and molecules behave in a certain way, and 
certain results follow, and that may be the whole story. 2 But men behave in a 
certain way and that is not the whole story, for all the time you know that they 
ought to behave differently. 

Now this is really so peculiar that one is tempted to try to explain it away. For 
instance, we might try to make out that when you say a man ought not to act 
as he does, you only mean the same as when you say that a stone is the wrong 
shape; namely, that what he is doing happens to be inconvenient to you. But 
that is simply untrue. A man occupying the corner seat in the train because he 
got there first, and a man who slipped into it while my back was turned and 
removed my bag, are both equally inconvenient. But I blame the second man 
and do not blame the first. I am not angry — except perhaps for a moment 
before I come to my senses — with a man who trips me up by accident; I am 
angry with a man who tries to trip me up even if he does not succeed. Yet the 
first has hurt me and the second has not. Sometimes the behaviour which I 
call bad is not inconvenient to me at all, but the very opposite. In war, each 
side may find a traitor on the other side very useful. But though they use him 
and pay him they regard him as human vermin. So you cannot say that what 
we call decent behaviour in others is simply the behaviour that happens to be 
useful to us. And as for decent behaviour in ourselves, I suppose it is pretty 
obvious that it does not mean the behaviour that pays. It means things like 
being content with thirty shillings when you might have got three pounds, do¬ 
ing school work honestly when it would be easy to cheat, leaving a giri alone 
when you would like to make love to her, staying in dangerous places when 
you could go somewhere safer, keeping promises you would rather not keep, 
and telling the truth even when it makes you look a fool. 

Some people say that though decent conduct does not mean what pays each 
particular person at a particular moment, still, it means what pays the human 
race as a whole; and that consequently there is no mystery about it. Human 
beings, after all, have some sense; they see that you cannot have real safety or 

2 — I do not think it is the whole story, as you will see later. I mean that, as far as the 
argument has gone up to date, it may be. 



happiness except in a society where every one plays fair, and it is because they 
see this that they try to behave decently. Now, of course, it is perfectly true 
that safety and happiness can only come from individuals, classes, and nations 
being honest and fair and kind to each other. It is one of the most important 
truths in the world. But as an explanation of why we feel as we do about Right 
and Wrong it just misses the point If we ask: "Why ought I to be unselfish?" 
and you reply "Because it is good for society," we may then ask, "Why should 
I care what's good for society except when it happens to pay me personally?" 
and then you will have to say, "Because you ought to be unselfish" — which 
simply brings us back to where we started. You are saying what is true, but 
you are not getting any further. If a man asked what was the point of playing 
football, it would not be much good saying "in order to score goals," for trying 
to score goals is the game itself, not the reason for the game, and you would 
really only be saying that football was football — which is true, but not worth 
saying. In the same way, if a man asks what is the point of behaving decently, 
it is no good replying, "in order to benefit society," for trying to benefit soci¬ 
ety, in other words being unselfish (for "society" after all only means "other 
people"), is one of the things decent behaviour consists in; all you are really 
saying is that decent behaviour is decent behaviour. You would have said just 
as much if you had stopped at the statement, "Men ought to be unselfish." 

And that is where I do stop. Men ought to be unselfish, ought to be fair. 
Not that men are unselfish, nor that they like being unselfish, but that they 
ought to be. The Moral Law, or Law of Human Nature, is not simply a faet 
about human behaviour in the same way as the Law of Gravitation is, or may 
be, simply a faet about how heavy objects behave. On the other hånd, it is 
not a mere fancy, for we cannot get rid of the idea, and most of the things 
we say and think about men would be reduced to nonsense if we did. And 
it is not simply a statement about how we should like men to behave for our 
own convenience; for the behaviour we call bad or unfair is not exaetly the 
same as the behaviour we find inconvenient, and may even be the opposite. 
Consequently, this Rule of Right and Wrong, or Law of Human Nature, or 
whatever you call it, must somehow or other be a real thing — a thing that is 
really there, not made up by ourselves. And yet it is not a faet in the ordinary 
sense, in the same way as our actual behaviour is a faet. It begins to look as 
if we shall have to admit that there is more than one kind of reality; that, in 
this particular case, there is something above and beyond the ordinary facts 
of mens behaviour, and yet quite definitely real — a real law, which none of as 
made, but which we find pressing on us. 




L et us sum up what we have reached so far. In the case of stones and 
trees and things of that sort, what we call the Laws of Nature may not 
be anything except a way of speaking. When you say that nature is gov- 
erned by certain laws, this may only mean that nature does, in faet, behave in 
a certain way. The so-called laws may not be anything real — anything above 
and beyond the actual facts which we observe. But in the case of Man, we saw 
that this will not do. The Law of Human Nature, or of Right and Wrong, must 
be something above and beyond the actual facts of human behaviour. In this 
case, besides the actual facts, you have something else — a real law which we 
did not invent and which we know we ought to obey. 

I now want to consider what this tells us about the universe we live in. Ever 
since men were able to think, they have been wondering what this universe 
really is and how it came to be there. And, very roughly, two views have been 
held. First, there is what is called the materialist view. People who take that 
view think that matter and space just happen to exist, and always have existed, 
nobody knows why; and that the matter, behaving in certain fixed ways, has 
just happened, by a sort of fluke, to produce creatures like ourselves who are 
able to think. By one chance in a thousand something hit our sun and made it 
produce the planets; and by another thousandth chance the Chemicals neces- 
sary for life, and the right temperature, occurred on one of these planets, and 
so some of the matter on this earth came alive; and then, by a very long series 
of chances, the living creatures developed into things like us. The other view 
is the religious view. 3 According to it, what is behind the universe is more like 
a mind than it is like anything else we know. 

That is to say, it is conscious, and has purposes, and prefers one thing to 
another. And on this view it made the universe, partly for purposes we do 
not know, but partly, at any rate, in order to produce creatures like itself — I 
mean, like itself to the extent of having minds. Piease do not think that one of 
these views was held a long time ago and that the other has gradually taken 
its place. Wherever there have been thinking men both views turn up. And 
note this too. You cannot find out which view is the right one by science in the 
ordinary sense. Science works by experiments. It watches how things behave. 
Every scientific statement in the long run, however complicated it looks, re¬ 
ally means something like, "I pointed the telescope to such and such a part of 
the sky at 2:20 A.M. on January 15th and saw so-and-so," or, "I put some of 
this stuff in a pot and heated it to such-and-such a temperature and it did so- 
and-so." Do not think I am saying anything against science: I am only saying 
what its job is. And the more scientific a man is, the more (I believe) he would 
agree with me that this is the job of science — and a very useful and neces- 

3 — See Note at the end of this chapter. 



sary job it is too. But why anything comes to be there at all, and whether there 
is anything behind the things science observes — something of a different 
kind — this is not a scientific question. If there is "Something Behind," then 
either it will have to remain altogether unknown to men or else make itself 
known in some different way. The statement that there is any such thing, and 
the statement that there is no such thing, are neither of them statements that 
science can make. And real scientists do not usually make them. It is usually 
the journalists and popular novelists who have picked up a few odds and ends 
of half-baked science from textbooks who go in for them. After all, it is really 
a matter of common sense. Supposing science ever became complete so that 
it knew every single thing in the whole universe. Is it not plain that the ques- 
tions, "Why is there a universe?" "Why does it go on as it does?" "Has it any 
meaning?" would remain just as they were? 

Now the position would be quite hopeless but for this. There is one thing, 
and only one, in the whole universe which we know more about than we could 
learn from external observation. That one thing is Man. We do not merely ob- 
serve men, we are men. In this case we have, so to speak, inside information; 
we are in the know. And because of that, we know that men find themselves 
under a moral law, which they did not make, and cannot quite forget even 
when they try, and which they know they ought to obey. Notice the following 
point. Anyone studying Man from the outside as we study electricity or cab- 
bages, not knowing our language and consequently not able to get any inside 
knowledge from us, but merely observing what we did, would never get the 
slightest evidence that we had this moral law. How could he? for his observa¬ 
tions would only show what we did, and the moral law is about what we ought 
to do. In the same way, if there were anything above or behind the observed 
facts in the case of stones or the weather, we, by studying them from outside, 
could never hope to discover it. 

The position of the question, then, is like this. We want to know whether 
the universe simply happens to be what it is for no reason or whether there is 
a power behind it that makes it what it is. Since that power, if it exists, would 
be not one of the observed facts but a reality which makes them, no mere ob¬ 
servation of the facts can find it. There is only one case in which we can know 
whether there is anything more, namely our own case. And in that one case 
we find there is. Or put it the other way round. If there was a controlling pow¬ 
er outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside 
the universe — no more than the architect of a house could actually be a wall 
or staircase or fireplace in that house. The only way in which we could expect 
it to show itself would be inside ourselves as an influence or a command try- 
ing to get us to behave in a certain way. And that is just what we do find inside 
ourselves. Surely this ought to arouse our suspicions? In the only case where 
you can expect to get an answer, the answer turns out to be Yes; and in the 
other cases, where you do not get an answer, you see why you do not. Suppose 



someone asked me, when I see a man in a blue uniform going down the Street 
leaving little paper packets at each house, why I suppose that they contain let¬ 
ters? I should reply, "Because whenever he leaves a similar little packet for me 
I find it does contain a letter." And if he then objected, "But you've never seen 
all these letters which you think the other people are getting," I should say, "Of 
course not, and I shouldn't expect to, because they're not addressed to me. I'm 
explaining the packets I'm not allowed to open by the ones I am allowed to 
open." It is the same about this question. The only packet I am allowed to open 
is Man. When I do, especially when I open that particular man called Myself, 
I find that I do not exist on my own, that I am under a law; that somebody or 
something wants me to behave in a certain way. I do not, of course, think that 
if I could get inside a stone or a tree I should find exactly the same thing, just 
as I do not think all the other people in the Street get the same letters as I do. I 
should expect, for instance, to find that the stone had to obey the law of grav- 
ity — that whereas the sender of the letters merely tells me to obey the law of 
my human nature, He compels the stone to obey the laws of its stony nature. 
But I should expect to find that there was, so to speak, a sender of letters in 
both cases, a Power behind the facts, a Director, a Guide. 

Do not think I am going faster than I really am. I am not yet within a hun¬ 
dred miles of the God of Christian theology. All I have got to is a Something 
which is directing the universe, and which appears in me as a law urging me 
to do right and making me feel responsible and uncomfortable when I do 
wrong. I think we have to assume it is more like a mind than it is like anything 
else we know — because affer all the only other thing we know is matter and 
you can hardly imagine a bit of matter giving instructions. But, of course, it 
need not be very like a mind, still less like a person. In the next chapter we 
shall see if we can find out anything more about it. But one word of warning. 
There has been a great deal of soff soap talked about God for the last hundred 
years. That is not what I am offering. You can cut all that out. 

Note — In order to keep this section short enough when it was given on the 
air, I mentioned only the Materialist view and the Religious view. But to be 
complete I ought to mention the In between view called Life-Force philoso- 
phy, or Creative Evolution, or Emergent Evolution. The wittiest expositions of 
it come in the works of Bernard Shaw, but the most profound ones in those 
of Bergson. People who hold this view say that the small variations by which 
life on this planet "evolved" from the lowest forms to Man were not due to 
chance but to the "striving" or "purposiveness" of a Life-Force. When people 
say this we must ask them whether by Life-Force they mean something with a 
mind or not. If they do, then "a mind bringing life into existence and leading 
it to perfection" is really a God, and their view is thus identical with the Reli¬ 
gious. If they do not, then what is the sense in saying that something without 
a mind "strives" or has "purposes"? This seems to me fatal to their view. One 



reason why many people find Creative Evolution so attractive is that it gives 
one much of the emotional comfort of believing in God and none of the less 
pleasant consequences. When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and 
you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance 
of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling on 
through the centuries and carrying you on its crest. If, on the other hånd, you 
want to do something rather shabby, the Life-Force, being only a blind force, 
with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like that trouble- 
some God we learned about when we were children. The Life-Force is a sort 
of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you. 
All the thrills of religion and none of the cost. Is the Life-Force the greatest 
achievement of wishful thinking the world has yet seen? 


I ended my last chapter with the idea that in the Moral Law somebody or 
something from beyond the material universe was actually getting at us. 
And I expect when I reached that point some of you felt a certain annoy- 
ance. You may even have thought that I had played a trick on you — that I had 
been carefully wrapping up to look like philosophy what turns out to be one 
more "religious jaw." You may have felt you were ready to listen to me as long 
as you thought I had anything new to say; but if it turns out to be only religion, 
well, the world has tried that and you cannot put the clock back. If anyone is 
feeling that way I should like to say three things to him. 

First, as to putting the clock back. Would you think I was joking if I said 
that you can put a clock back, and that if the clock is wrong it is offen a very 
sensible thing to do? But I would rather get away from that whole idea of 
clocks. We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place 
where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go 
forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress 
means doing an about turn and walking back to the right road; and in that 
case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. We have all 
seen this when doing arithmetic. When I have started a sum the wrong way, 
the sooner I admit this and go back and start over again, the faster I shall get 
on. There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit 
a mistake. And I think if you look at the present State of the world, it is pretty 
plain that humanity has been making some big mistake. We are on the wrong 
road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on. 

Then, secondly, this has not yet turned exactly into a "religious jaw." We 
have not yet got as far as the God of any actual religion, still less the God of 
that particular religion called Christianity. We have only got as far as a Some¬ 
body or Something behind the Moral Law. We are not taking anything from 



the Bible or the Churches, we are trying to see what we can find out about this 
Somebody on our own steam. And I want to make it quite clear that what we 
find out on our own steam is something that gives us a shock. We have two 
bits of evidence about the Somebody. One is the universe He has made. If we 
used that as our only clue, then I think we should have to conclude that He 
was a great artist (for the universe is a verybeautiful place), but also that He is 
quite merciless and no friend to man (for the universe is a very dangerous and 
terrifying place). The other bit of evidence is that Moral Law which He has put 
into our minds. And this is a better bit of evidence than the other, because it 
is inside information. You find out more about God from the Moral Law than 
from the universe in general just as you find out more about a man by listen¬ 
ing to his conversation than by looking at a house he has built. Now, from 
this second bit of evidence we conclude that the Being behind the universe 
is intensely interested in right conduct — in fair play, unselfishness, courage, 
good faith, honesty and truthfulness. In that sense we should agree with the 
account given by Christianity and some other religions, that God is "good." 
But do not let us go too fast here. The Moral Law does not give us any grounds 
for thinking that God is "good" in the sense of being indulgent, or soft, or 
sympathetic. There is nothing indulgent about the Moral Law. It is as hard 
as nails. It tells you to do the straight thing and it does not seem to care how 
painful, or dangerous, or difficult it is to do. If God is like the Moral Law, then 
He is not soft. It is no use, at this stage, saying that what you mean by a "good" 
God is a God who can forgive. You are going too quickly. Only a Person can 
forgive. And we have not yet got as far as a personal God — only as far as a 
power, behind the Moral Law, and more like a mind than it is like anything 
else. But it may still be very unlike a Person. If it is pure impersonal mind, 
there may be no tense in asking it to make allowances for you or let you off, 
just as there is no sense in asking the multiplication table to let you off when 
you do your sums wrong. You are bound to get the wrong answer. And it is no 
use either saying that if there is a God of that sort — an impersonal absolute 
goodness — then you do not like Him and are not going to bother about Him. 
For the trouble is that one part of you is on His side and really agrees with 
His disapproval of human greed and trickery and exploitation. You may want 
Him to make an exception in your own case, to let you off this one time; but 
you know at bottom that unless the power behind the world really and unal- 
terably detests that sort of behaviour, then He cannot be good. On the other 
hånd, we know that if there does exist an absolute goodness it must hate most 
of what we do. That is the terrible fix we are in. If the universe is not governed 
by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But 
if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, and 
are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hope¬ 
less again. We cannot do without it. and we cannot do with it. God is the only 
comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing 



we most want to hide from. He is our only possible — ally, and we have made 
ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute 
goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing 
with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger — ac- 
cording to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way. Now 
my third point. When I chose to get to my real subject in this roundabout way, 
I was not trying to play any kind of trick on you. I had a different reason. My 
reason was that Christianity simply does not make sense until you have faced 
the sort of facts I have been describing. Christianity tells people to repent and 
promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say 
to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do 
not feel that they need any forgiveness. It is after you have realised that there 
is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken 
that law and put yourself wrong with that Power — it is after all this, and not 
a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk. When you know you are 
sick, you will listen, to. the doctor. When you have realised that our position 
is nearly desperate you will begin to understand what the Christians are talk- 
ing about. They offer an explanation of how we got into our present State of 
both hating goodness and loving it. They offer an explanation of how God can 
be this impersonal mind at the back of the Moral Law and yet also a Person. 
They tell you how the demands of this law, which you and I cannot meet, have 
been met on our behalf, how God Himself becomes a man to save man from 
the disapproval of God. It is an old story and if you want to go into it you 
will no doubt consult people who have more authority to talk about it than 
I have. All I am doing is to ask people to face the facts — to understand the 
questions which Christianity claims to answer. And they are very terrifying 
facts. I wish it was possible to say something more agreeable. But I must say 
what I think true. Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the 
long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it 
begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go 
on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in 
war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking 
for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for 
comfort you will not get either comfort or truth — only soft soap and wish- 
ful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair. Most of us have got over 
the prewar wishful thinking about international politics. It is time we did the 
same about religion. 


Book II 

What Christians Believe 


I have been asked to tell you what Christians believe, and I am going to be- 
gin by telling you one thing that Christians do not need to believe. If you 
are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are 
simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the 
main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. 
If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the 
queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an athe¬ 
ist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always 
been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a 
Christian I was able to take a more liberal view. But, of course, being a Chris¬ 
tian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, 
Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic — there is only one 
right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong: but some of the wrong 
answers are much nearer being right than others. 

The first big division of humanity is into the majority, who believe in some 
kind of God or gods, and the minority who do not. On this point, Christian¬ 
ity lines up with the majority — lines up with ancient Greeks and Romans, 
modern savages, Stoics, Platonists, Hindus, Mohammedans, etc., against the 
modern Western European materialist. 

Now I go on to the next big division. People who all believe in God can be 
divided according to the sort of God they believe in. There are two very differ- 
ent ideas on this subject One of them is the idea that He is beyond good and 
evil. We humans call one thing good and another thing bad. But according to 
some people that is merely our human point of view. These people would say 
that the wiser you become the less you would want to call anything good or 
bad, and the more dearly you would see that everything is good in one way 
and bad in another, and that nothing could have been different. Consequently, 
these people think that long before you got anywhere near the divine point of 
view the distinction would have disappeared altogether. We call a cancer bad, 
they would say, because it kills a man; but you might just as well call a success- 
ful surgeon bad because he kills a cancer. It all depends on the point of view. 
The other and opposite idea is that God is quite definitely "good" or " right - 
eous." a God who takes sides, who loves love and hates hatred, who wants us 
to behave in one way and not in another. The first of these views — the one 
that thinks God beyond good and evil — is called Pantheism. It was held by 
the great Prussian philosopher Hegel and, as far as I can understand them, by 
the Hindus. The other view is held by Jews, Mohammedans and Christians. 

And with this big difference between Pantheism and the Christian idea of 
God, there usually goes another. Pantheists usually believe that God, so to 
speak, animates the universe as you animate your body: that the universe al¬ 
most is God, so that if it did not exist He would not exist either, and anything 


you find in the universe is a part of God. The Christian idea is quite differ- 
ent. They think God invented and made the universe — like a man making a 
picture or composing a tune. A painter is not a picture, and he does not die 
if his picture is destroyed. You may say, "He's put a lot of himself into it," but 
you only mean that all its beauty and interest has come out of his head. His 
skiil is not in the picture in the same way that it is in his head, or even in his 
hånds, expect you see how this difference between Pantheists and Christians 
hangs together with the other one. If you do not take the distinction between 
good and bad very seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in this 
world is a part of God. But, of course, if you think some things really bad, and 
God really good, then you cannot talk like that. You must believe that God is 
separate from the world and that some of the things we see in it are contrary 
to His will. Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, "If you 
could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realise that this also 
is God." The Christian replies, "Don't talk damned nonsense." 4 

For Christianity is a fighting religion. It thinks God made the world — that 
space and time, heat and cold, and all the colours and tastes, and all the ani- 
mals and vegetables, are things that God "made up out of His head" as a man 
makes up a story. But it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong 
with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on 
our putting them right again. 

And, of course, that raises a very big question. If a good God made the 
world why has it gone wrong? And for many years I simply refused to listen 
to the Christian answers to this question, because I kept on feeling "whatever 
you say, and however elever your arguments are, isn't it mueh simpler and 
easier to say that the world was not made by any intelligent power? Aren't all 
your arguments simply a complicated attempt to avoid the obvious?" But then 
that threw me back into another difficulty. 

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so eruel and un¬ 
just. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line 
crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this 
universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless 
from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, 
find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falis 
into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. 

Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was noth- 
ing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against 
God collapsed too — for the argument depended on saying that the world 
was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to piease my private fan- 
cies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist — in other 

4 — One listener complained of the word damned as frivolous swearing. But I mean 
exaetly what I say — nonsense that is damned is under Gods curse, and will (apart 
from Gods grace) lead those who believe it to eternal death. 



words, that the whole of reality was senseless — I found I was forced to as- 
sume that one part of reality — namely my idea of justice — was full of sense. 

Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has 
no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, 
if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we 
should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning. 


ery well then, atheism is too simple. And I will tell you another view 

that is also too simple. It is the view I call Christianity-and-water, the 

V view which simply says there is a good God in Heaven and everything 
is all right — leaving out all the difficult and terrible doctrines about sin and 
hell and the devil, and the redemption. Both these are boys' philosophies. 

It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not sim¬ 
ple. They look simple, but they are not. The table I am sitting at looks simple: 
but ask a scientist to tell you what it is really made of — all about the atoms 
and how the light waves rebound from them and hit my eye and what they 
do to the optic nerve and what it does to my brain — and, of course, you find 
that what we call "seeing a table" lands you in mysteries and complications 
which you can hardly get to the end of. A child saying a child's prayer looks 
simple. And if you are content to stop there, well and good. But if you are not 
— and the modern world usually is not — if you want to go on and ask what 
is really happening — then you must be prepared for something difficult. If 
we ask for something more than simplicity, it is silly then to complain that the 
something more is not simple. 

Very often, however, this silly procedure is adopted by people who are not 
silly, but who, consciously or unconsciously, want to destroy Christianity. 
Such people put up a version of Christianity suitable for a child of six and 
make that the object of their attack. When you try to explain the Christian 
doctrine as it is really held by an instructed adult, they then complain that you 
are making their heads turn round and that it is all too complicated and that 
if there really were a God they are sure He would have made "religion" sim¬ 
ple, because simplicity is so beautiful, etc. You must be on your guard against 
these people for they will change their ground every minute and only waste 
your tune. Notice, too, their idea of God "making religion simple": as if "reli¬ 
gion" were something God invented, and not His statement to us of certain 
quite unalterable facts about His own nature. 

Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not 
neat, not obvious, not what you expect. For instance, when you have grasped 
that the earth and the other planets all go round the sun, you would naturally 
expect that all the planets were made to match — all at equal distances from 



each other, say, or distances that regularly increased, or all the same size, or 
else getting bigger or smaller as you go farther from the sun. In faet, you find 
no rhyme or reason (that we can see) about either the sizes or the distances; 
and some of them have one moon, one has four, one has two, some have none, 
and one has a ring. 

Reality, in faet, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is 
one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have 
guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, 
I should feel we were making it up. But, in faet, it is not the sort of thing 
anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real 
things have. So let us leave behind all these boys' philosophies — these over¬ 
simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to 
be simpler either. 

What is the problem? A universe that contains mueh that is obviously bad 
and apparently meaningless, but containing creatures like ourselves who 
know that it is bad and meaningless. There are only two views that face all 
the facts. One is the Christian view that this is a good world that has gone 
wrong, but still retains the memory of what it ought to have been. The other 
is the view called Dualism. Dualism means the belief that there are two equal 
and independent powers at the back of everything, one of them good and the 
other bad, and that this universe is the battlefield in which they fight out an 
endless war. I personally think that next to Christianity Dualism is the manli- 
est and most sensible creed on the market. But it has a catch in it. 

The two powers, or spirits, or gods — the good one and the bad one — are 
supposed to be quite independent. They both existed from all eternity. Nei- 
ther of them made the other, neither of them has any more right than the 
other to call itself God. Each presumably thinks it is good and thinks the other 
bad. One of them likes hatred and cruelty, the other likes love and mercy, and 
each backs its own view. Now what do we mean when we call one of them the 
Good Power and the other the Bad Power? Either we are merely saying that 
we happen to prefer the one to the other — like preferring beer to cider — or 
else we are saying that, whatever the two powers think about it, and whichever 
we humans, at the moment, happen to like, one of them is actually wrong, 
actually mistaken, in regarding itself as good. Now it we mean merely that we 
happen to prefer the hrst, then we must give up talking about good and evil 
at all. For good means what you ought to prefer quite regardless of what you 
happen to like at any given moment. If "being good" meant simply joining the 
side you happened to fancy, for no real reason, then good would not deserve 
to be called good. So we must mean that one of the two powers is actually 
wrong and the other actually right 

But the moment you say that, you are putting into the universe a third thing 
in addition to the two Powers: some law or standard or rule of good which 
one of the powers conforms to and the other fails to conform to. But since the 



two powers are judged by this standard, then this standard, or the Being who 
made this standard, is farther back and higher up than either of them, and 
He will be the real God. In faet, what we meant by calling them good and bad 
turns out to be that one of them is in a right relation to the real ultimate God 
and the other in a wrong relation to Him. 

The same point can be made in a different way. If Dualism is true, then the 
bad Power must be a being who likes badness for its own sake. But in reality 
we have no experience of anyone liking badness just because it is bad. The 
nearest we can get to it is in cruelty. But in real life people are eruel for one 
of two reasons — either because they are sadists, that is, because they have a 
sexual perversion which makes cruelty a cause of sensual pleasure to them, 
or else for the sake of something they are going to get out of it — money, or 
power, or safety. But pleasure, money, power, and safety are all, as far as they 
go, good things. The badness consists in pursuing them by the wrong method, 
or in the wrong way, or too mueh. I do not mean, of course, that the people 
who do this are not desperately wicked. I do mean that wickedness, when you 
examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way. You 
can be good for the mere sake of goodness: you cannot be bad for the mere 
sake of badness. You can do a kind action when you are not feeling kind and 
when it gives you no pleasure, simply because kindness is right; but no one 
ever did a eruel action simply because cruelty is wrong — only because cruelty 
was pleasant or useful to him. In other words badness cannot succeed even 
in being bad in the same way in which goodness is good. Goodness is, so to 
speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something 
good first before it can be spoiled. We called sadism a sexual perversion; but 
you must first have the idea of a normal sexuality before you can talk of its 
being perverted; and you can see which is the perversion, because you can 
explain the perverted from the normal, and cannot explain the normal from 
the perverted. It follows that this Bad Power, who is supposed to be on an 
equal footing with the Good Power, and to love badness in the same way as 
the Good Power loves goodness, is a mere bogy. In order to be bad he must 
have good things to want and then to pursue in the wrong way: he must have 
impulses which were originally good in order to be able to pervert them. But 
if he is bad he cannot supply himself either with good things to desire or with 
good impulses to pervert. He must be getting both from the Good Power. And 
if so, then he is not independent. He is part of the Good Power's world: he was 
made either by the Good Power or by some power above them both. 

Put it more simply still. To be bad, he must exist and have intelligence and 
will. But existence, intelligence and will are in themselves good. Iherefore he 
must be getting them from the Good Power: even to be bad he must borrow 
or steal from his opponent. And do you now begin to see why Christianity 
has always said that the devil is a fallen angel? That is not a mere story for 
the children. It is a real recognition of the faet that evil is a parasite, not an 



original thing. The powers which enable evil to carry on are powers given it by 
goodness. All the things which enable a bad man to be effectively bad are in 
themselves good things — resolution, cleverness, good looks, existence itself. 
That is why Dualism, in a strict sense, will not work. 

But I freely admit that real Christianity (as distinet from Christianity-and- 
water) goes mueh nearer to Dualism than people think. One of the things that 
surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked 
so mueh about a Dark Power in the universe — a mighty evil spirit who was 
held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. The difference is that 
Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when 
he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this 
universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent 
powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of 
the universe occupied by the rebel. 

Enemy-occupied territory — that is what this world is. Christianity is the 
story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, 
and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go 
to church you are really listening — in to the secret wireless from our friends: 
that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by 
playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery. I know some- 
one will ask me, "Do you really mean, at this time of day, to reintroduce our 
old friend the devil — hoofs and horns and all?" Well, what the time of day 
has to do with it I do not know. And I am not particular about the hoofs and 
horns. But in other respects my answer is "Yes, I do." I do not claim to know 
anything about his personal appearance. If anybody really wants to know him 
better I would say to that person, "Don't worry. If you really want to, you will 
Whether you'll like it when you do is another question." 


hristians, then, believe that an evil power has made himself for the 

present the Prince of this World. And, of course, that raises problems. 

Is this State of affairs in accordance with God's will or not? If it is, He is 
a strange God, you will say: and if it is not, how can anything happen contrary 
to the will of a being with absolute power? 

But anyone who has been in authority knows how a thing can be in accord¬ 
ance with your will in one way and not in another. It may be quite sensible for 
a mother to say to the children, "Em not going to go and make you tidy the 
schoolroom every night. You've got to learn to keep it tidy on your own." Then 
she goes up one night and linds the Teddy bear and the ink and the French 
Grammar all lying in the grate. That is against her will. She would prefer the 
children to be tidy. But on the other hånd, it is her will which has left the chil- 



dren free to be untidy. The same thing arises in any regiment, or trade union, 
or school. You make a thing voluntary and then half the people do not do it. 
That is not what you willed, but your will has made it possible. 

It is probably the same in the universe. God created things which had free 
will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people 
think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of 
going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. 
And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them 
free will? Because free will though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing 
that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of 
automata — of creatures that worked like machines — would hardly be worth 
creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the 
happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an 
ecstasy oflove and delight compared with which the most rapturous love be- 
tween a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that 
they must be free. 

Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the 
wrong way: apparently He thought it worth the risk. Perhaps we feel inclined 
to disagree with Him. But there is a difficulty about disagreeing with God. 
He is the source from which all your reasoning power comes: you could not 
be right and He wrong any more than a stream can rise higher than its own 
source. When you are arguing against Him you are arguing against the very 
power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you 
are sitting on. If God thinks this State of war in the universe a price worth 
paying for free will — that is, for making a live world in which creatures can 
do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead 
of a toy world which only moves when He pulis the strings — then we may 
take it it is worth paying. 

When we have understood about free will, we shall see how silly it is to ask, 
as somebody once asked me: "Why did God make a creature of such rotten 
stuff that it went wrong?" The better stuff a creature is made of — the eleverer 
and stronger and freer it is — then the better it will be if it goes right, but also 
the worse it will be if it goes wrong. A cow cannot be very good or very bad; 
a dog can be both better and worse; a child better and worse still; an ordinary 
man, still more so; a man of genius, still more so; a superhuman spirit hest — 
or worst — of all. 

How did the Dark Power go wrong? Here, no doubt, we ask a question to 
which human beings cannot give an answer with any certainty. A reasonable 
(and traditional) guess, based on our own experiences of going wrong, can, 
however, be offered. The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of 
putting Yourself first — wanting to be the centre — wanting to be God, in faet. 
That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race. Some 
people think the fali of man had something to do with sex, but that is a mis- 



take. (The story in the Book of Genesis rather suggests that some corruption 
in our sexual nature followed the fail and was its result, not its cause.) What 
Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could 
"be like gods" — could set up on their own as if they had created themselves 
— be their own masters — invent some sort of happiness for themselves out- 
side God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly 
all that we call human history — money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, 
classes, empires, slavery — the long terrible story of man trying to find some- 
thing other than God which will make him happy. 

The reason why it can never succeed is this. God made us: invented us as 
a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not 
run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run 
on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the 
food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is 
just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering 
about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, 
because it is not there. There is no such thing. 

That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended — civilisations are 
built up — excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes 
wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top 
and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In faet, the machine conks. It seems 
to start up all right and runs a Jew yards, and then it breaks down. They are 
trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to us humans. 

And what did God do? First of all He left us conscience, the sense of right 
and wrong: and all through history there have been people trying (some of 
them very hard) to obey it. None of them ever quite succeeded. Secondly, 
He sent the human race what I call good dreams: I mean those queer stories 
scattered all through the heathen religions about a god who dies and comes 
to life again and, by his death, has somehow given new life to men. Thirdly, 
He selected one particular people and spent several centuries hammering into 
their heads the sort of God He was -that there was only one of Him and that 
He cared about right conduct. Those people were the Jews, and the Old Testa- 
ment gives an account of the hammering process. 

Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a 
man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He 
says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end 
of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone 
might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing 
very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind 
of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world Who had 
made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have 
grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most 
shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips. 



One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard 
it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to for¬ 
give sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposter- 
ous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against 
himself. You tread on my toe and I forgive you, you steal my money and I 
forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and un- 
trodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other mens 
toes and stealing other mens money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest descrip- 
tion we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people 
that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people 
whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He 
was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. 
This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and 
whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not 
God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit 
unrivalled by any other character in history. 

Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they 
read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. 
Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is "humble and meek" 
and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility 
and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of 
His sayings. 

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that peo¬ 
ple often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, 
but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. 
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not 
be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the 
man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You 
must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else 
a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit 
at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord 
and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being 
a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. 


W e are faced, then, with a frightening alternative. This man we are 
talking about either was (and is) just what He said or else a lunatic, 
or something worse. Now it seems to me obvious that He was nei- 
ther a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or 
unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. God 
has landed on this enemy-occupied world in human form. 



And now, what was the purpose of it all? What did He come to do? Well, to 
teach, of course; but as soon as you look into the New Testament or any other 
Christian writing you will find they are constantly talking about something 
different — about His death and His coming to life again. It is obvious that 
Christians think the chief point of the story lies here. They think the main 
thing He came to earth to do was to suffer and be killed. 

Now before I became a Christian I was under the impression that the first 
thing Christians had to believe was one particular theory as to what the point 
of this dying was. According to that theory God wanted to punish men for 
having deserted and joined the Great Rebel, but Christ volunteered to be pun- 
ished instead, and so God let us off. Now I admit that even this theory does 
not seem to me quite so immoral and so silly as it used to; but that is not the 
point I want to make. What I came to see later on was that neither this theory 
nor any other is Christianity. The central Christian belief is that Christ's death 
has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start Theories as to 
how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been 
held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. 
I will tell you what I think it is like. All sensible people know that if you are 
tired and hungry a meal will do you good. But the modern theory of nourish- 
ment — all about the vitamins and proteins — is a different thing. People ate 
their dinners and felt better long before the theory of vitamins was ever heard 
of: and if the theory of vitamins is some day abandoned they will go on eating 
their dinners just the same. Theories about Christ's death are not Christian¬ 
ity: they are explanations about how it works. Christians would not all agree 
as to how important these theories are. My own church — the Church of 
England — does not lay down any one of them as the right one. The Church 
of Rome goes a bit further. But I think they will all agree that the thing itself 
is infinitely more important than any explanations that theologians have pro- 
duced. I think they would probably admit that no explanation will ever be 
quite adequate to the reality. But as I said in the preface to this book, I am only 
a layman, and at this point we are getting into deep water. I can only tell you, 
for what it is worth, how I, personally, look at the matter. 

On my view the theories are not themselves the thing you are asked to 
accept. Many of you no doubt have read Jeans or Eddington. What they do 
when they want to explain the atom, or something of that sort, is to give you 
a description out of which you can make a mental picture. But then they 
warn you that this picture is not what the scientists actually believe. What 
the scientists believe is a mathematical formula. The pictures are there only 
to help you to understand the formula. They are not really true in the way the 
formula is; they do not give you the real thing but only something more or 
less like it. They are only meant to help, and if they do not help you can drop 
them. The thing itself cannot be pictured, it can only be expressed mathe- 
matically. We are in the same boat here. We believe that the death of Christ is 



just that point in history at which something absolutely unimaginable from 
outside shows through into our own world. And if we cannot picture even 
the atoms of which our own world is built, of course we are not going to be 
able to picture this. Indeed, if we found that we could fully understand it, that 
very faet would show it was not what it professes to be — the inconceivable, 
the uncreated, the thing from beyond nature, striking down into nature like 
lightning. You may ask what good will it be to us if we do not understand it. 
But that is easily answered. A man can eat his dinner without understanding 
exaetly how food nourishes him. A man can accept what Christ has done 
without knowing how it works: indeed, he certainly would not know how it 
works until he has accepted it. 

We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our 
sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is 
Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to 
how Christ's death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or 
diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, even if they do help us, 
not to be confused with the thing itself. All the same, some of these theories 
are worth looking at. 

The one most people have heard is the one I mentioned before — the one 
about our being let off because Christ had volunteered to bear a punishment 
instead of us. Now on the face of it that is a very silly theory. If God was pre- 
pared to let us off, why on earth did He not do so? And what possible point 
could there be in punishing an innocent person instead? None at all that I can 
see, if you are thinking of punishment in the police-court sense. On the other 
hånd, if you think of a debt, there is plenty of point in a person who has some 
assets paying it on behalf of someone who has not. Or if you take "paying the 
penalty," not in the sense of being punished, but in the more general sense 
of "standing the racket" or "footing the biil," then, of course, it is a matter of 
common experience that, when one person has got himself into a hole, the 
trouble of getting him out usually fails on a kind friend. Now what was the 
sort of "hole" man had got himself into? He had tried to set up on his own, to 
behave as if he belonged to himself. In other words, fallen man is not simply 
an imperfeet creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay 
down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, 
realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life 
over again from the ground floor — that is the only way out of a "hole." This 
process of surrender — this movement full speed astern — is what Christians 
call repentance. Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something mueh harder 
than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and 
self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It 
means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In faet, it needs a 
good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to 
repent: only a good person can repent perfeetly. The worse you are the more 



you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it per- 
fectly would be a perfect person — and he would not need it. 

Remember, this repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a 
kind of death, is not something God demands of you before He will take you 
back and which He could let you off if He chose: it is simply a description of 
what going back to Him is like. If you ask God to take you back without it, 
you are really asking Him to let you go back without going back. It cannot hap 
pen. Very well, then, we must go through with it. But the same badness which 
makes us need it, makes us unable to do it. Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, 
but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God put¬ 
ting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of His reasoning 
powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is 
how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hånd 
while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming 
them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hånd 
while we do it. Now if we had not fallen, that would be all plain sailing. But 
unfortunately we now need Gods help in order to do something which God, 
in His own nature, never does at all — to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to 
die. Nothing in Gods nature corresponds to this process at all. So that the one 
road for which we now need Gods leadership most of all is a road God, in His 
own nature, has never walked. God can share only what He has: this thing, in 
His own nature, He has not. 

But supposing God became a man — suppose our human nature which can 
suffer and die was amalgamated with Gods nature in one person — then that 
person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because 
He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and I can 
go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He 
becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share 
in Gods dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out 
of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share Gods dying unless God 
dies; and He cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He 
pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all. 

I have heard some people complain that if Jesus was God as well as man, 
then His sufferings and death lose all value in their eyes, "because it must 
have been so easy for him." Others may (very rightly) rebuke the ingrati- 
tude and ungraciousness of this objection; what staggers me is the misunder- 
standing it betrays. In one sense, of course, those who make it are right. They 
have even understated their own case. The perfect submission, the perfect 
suffering, the perfect death were not only easier to Jesus because He was 
God, but were possible only because He was God. But surely that is a very 
odd reason for not accepting them? The teacher is able to form the letters for 
the child because the teacher is grown-up and knows how to write. That, of 
course, makes it easier for the teacher, and only because it is easier for him 



can he help the child. If it rejected him because "it's easy for grown-ups" and 
waited to learn writing from another child who could not write itself (and so 
had no "unfair" advantage), it would not get on very quickly. If I am drown- 
ing in a rapid river, a man who still has one foot on the bank may give me a 
hånd which saves my life. Ought I to shout back (between my gasps) "No, it's 
not fair! You have an advantage! You're keeping one foot on the bank"? That 
advantage — call it "unfair" if you like — is the only reason why he can be 
of any use to me. To what will you look for help if you will not look to that 
which is stronger than yourself? 

Such is my own way of looking at what Christians call the Atonement. But 
remember this is only one more picture. Do not mistake it for the thing itself: 
and if it does not help you, drop it 


T he perfect surrender and humiliation were undergone by Christ: per- 
fect because He was God, surrender and humiliation because He was 
man. Now the Christian belief is that if we somehow share the hu- 
mility and suffering of Christ we shall also share in His conquest for death 
and find a new life after we have died and in it become perfect, and perfectly 
happy, creatures. This means something much more than our trying to follow 
His teaching. People often ask when the next step in evolution — the step to 
something beyond man — will happen. But on the Christian view, it has hap- 
pened already. In Christ a new kind of man appeared: and the new kind of life 
which began in Him is to be put into us. How is this to be done? Now, piease 
remember how we acquired the old, ordinary kind of life. We derived it from 
others, from our father and mother and all our ancestors, without our con- 
sent — and by a very curious process, involving pleasure, pain, and danger. A 
process you would never have guessed. Most of us spend a good many years 
in childhood trying to guess it: and some children, when they are first told, 
do not believe it — and I am not sure that I blame them, for it is very odd. 
Now the God who arranged that process is the same God who arranges how 
the new kind of life — the Christ life — is to be spread. We must be prepared 
for it being odd too. He did not consult us when He invented sex: He has not 
consulted us either when He invented this. 

There are three things that spread the Christ life to us: baptism, belief, and 
that mysterious action which different Christians call by different names — 
Holy Communion, the Mass, the Lords Supper. At least, those are the three 
ordinary methods. I am not saying there may not be special cases where it is 
spread without one or more of these. I have not time to go into special cases, 
and I do not know enough. If you are trying in a few minutes to tell a man how 
to get to Edinburgh you will tell him the trains: he can, it is true, get there by 



boat or by a plane, but you will hardly bring that in. And I am not saying any- 
thing about which of these three things is the most essential. My Methodist 
friend would like me to say more about belief and less (in proportion) about 
the other two. But I am not going into that. Anyone who professes to teach 
you Christian doctrine will, in faet, tell you to use all three, and that is enough 
for our present purpose. 

I cannot myself see why these things should be the conductors of the new 
kind of life. But then, if one did not happen to know, I should never have seen 
any connection between a particular physical pleasure and the appearance 
of a new human being in the world. We have to take reality as it comes to us: 
there is no good jabbering about what it ought to be like or what we should 
have expected it to be like. But though I cannot see why it should be so, I can 
tell you why I believe it is so. I have explained why I have to believe that Jesus 
was (and is) God. And it seems plain as a matter of history that He taught His 
followers that the new life was communicated in this way. In other words, I 
believe it on His authority. Do not be scared by the word authority. Believing 
things on authority only means believing them because you have been told 
them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine per cent of the things 
you believe are believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New 
York. I have not seen it myself. I could not prove by abstract reasoning that 
there must be such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me 
so. The ordinary man believes in the Solar System, atoms, evolution, and the 
circulation of the biood on authority — because the scientists say so. Every 
historical statement in the world is believed on authority. None of us has seen 
the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Armada. None of us could prove 
them by pure logic as you prove a thing in mathematics. We believe them sim- 
ply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them: 
in faet, on authority. A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some 
people do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life. 

Do not think I am setting up baptism and belief and the Holy Communion 
as things that will do instead of your own attempts to copy Christ. Your natu¬ 
ral life is derived from your parents; that does not mean it will stay there if 
you do nothing about it. You can lose it by neglect, or you can drive it away by 
committing suicide. You have to feed it and look after it: but always remember 
you are not making it, you are only keeping up a life you got from someone 
else. In the same way a Christian can lose the Christ — life which has been 
put into him, and he has to make efforts to keep it. But even the best Chris¬ 
tian that ever lived is not acting on his own steam — he is only nourishing 
or protecting a life he could never have acquired by his own efforts. And that 
has practical consequences. As long as the natural life is in your body, it will 
do a lot towards repairing that body. Cut it, and up to a point it will heal, as a 
dead body would not. A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that 
can to some extent repair itself. In the same way a Christian is not a man who 



never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up 
and begin over again atter each stumble — because the Christ — life is inside 
him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the 
kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out. 

That is why the Christian is in a different position from other people who 
are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to piease God if there is one; 
or — if they think there is not — at least they hope to deserve approval from 
good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ - 
life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but 
that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a green- 
house does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because 
the sun shines on it. 

And let me make it quite clear that when Christians say the Christ-life is 
in them, they do not mean simply something mental or moral. When they 
speak of being "in Christ" or of Christ being "in them," this is not simply a 
way of saying that they are thinking about Christ or copying Him. They mean 
that Christ is actually operating through them; that the whole mass of Chris¬ 
tians are the physical organism through which Christ acts — that we are. His 
fingers and muscles, the cells of His body. And perhaps that explains one or 
two things. It explains why this new life is spread not only by purely mental 
acts like belief, but by bodily acts like baptism and Holy Communion. It is 
not merely the spreading of an idea; it is more like evolution — a biological 
or super — biological faet. There is no good trying to be more spiritual than 
God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He 
uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may 
think this rather erude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He 
likes matter. He invented it. 

Here is another thing that used to puzzle me. Is it not frightfully unfair 
that this new life should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and 
been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us what His 
arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be 
saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him 
can be saved through Him, But in the meantime, if you are worried about the 
people outside, the most unreasonable thing you can do is to remain outside 
yourself. Christians are Christ's body, the organism through which He works. 
Every addition to that body enables Him to do more. If you want to help those 
outside you must add your own little cell to the body of Christ who alone can 
help them. Cutting off a mans fingers wouldbe an odd way of getting him to 
do more work. 

Another possible objection is this. Why is God landing in this enemy-oc- 
cupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine 
the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it dial He is not 
strong enough? Well, Christians think He is going to land in force; we do 



not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us 
the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you and I would have 
thought much of a Frenchman who waited till the Allies were marching into 
Germany and then announced he was on our side. God will invade. But I 
wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our 
world quite realise what it will be like when He does. When that happens, 
it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play 
is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you 
are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away 
like a dream and something else — something it never entered your head to 
conceive — comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so 
terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it 
will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike 
either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too 
late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to he down 
when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for 
choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have 
chosen, whether we realised it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our 
chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It 
will not last for ever. We must take it or leave it. 


Book III 

Christian Behaviour 


T here is a story about a schoolboy who was asked what he thought God 
was like. He replied that, as far as he could make out, God was "The 
sort of person who is always snooping round to see if anyone is enjoy- 
ing himself and then trying to stop it." And I am afraid that is the sort of idea 
that the word Morality raises in a good many people's minds: something that 
interferes, something that stops you having a good time. In reality, moral rules 
are directions for running the human machine. Every moral rule is there to 
prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a friction, in the running of that ma¬ 
chine. That is why these rules at first seem to be constantly interfering with 
our natural inclinations. When you are being taught how to use any machine, 
the instructor keeps on saying, "No, don't do it like that," because, of course, 
there are all sorts of things that look all right and seem to you the natural way 
of treating the machine, but do not really work. 

Some people prefer to talk about moral "ideals" rather than moral rules 
and about moral "idealism" rather than moral obedience. Now it is, of course, 
quite true that moral perfection is an "ideal" in the sense that we cannot 
achieve it. In that sense every kind of perfection is, for us humans, an ideal; 
we cannot succeed in being perfect car drivers or perfect tennis players or in 
drawing perfectly straight lines. But there is another sense in which it is very 
misleading to call moral perfection an ideal. When a man says that a certain 
woman, or house, or ship, or garden is "his ideal" he does not mean (unless 
he is rather a fool) that everyone else ought to have the same ideal. In such 
matters we are entitled to have different tastes and, therefore, different ideals. 
But it is dangerous to describe a man who tries very hard to keep the moral 
law as a "man of high ideals," because this might lead you to think that moral 
perfection was a private taste of his own and that the rest of us were not called 
on to share it. This would be a disastrous mistake. Perfect behaviour may be 
as unattainable as perfect gear-changing when we drive; but it is a necessary 
ideal prescribed for all men by the very nature of the human machine just as 
perfect gear-changing is an ideal prescribed for all drivers by the very nature 
of cars. And it would be even more dangerous to think of oneself as a person 
"of high ideals" because one is trying to tell no lies at all (instead of only a few 
lies) or never to commit adultery (instead of committing it only seldom) or 
not to be a bully (instead of being only a moderate bully). It might lead you to 
become a prig and to think you were rather a special person who deserved to 
be congratulated on his "idealism." In reality you might just as well expect to 
be congratulated because, whenever you do a sum, you try to get it quite right. 
To be sure, perfect arithmetic is "an ideal"; you will certainly make some mis¬ 
takes in some calculations. But there is nothing very fine about trying to be 
quite accurate at each step in each sum. It would be idiotic not to try; for every 
mistake is going to cause you trouble later on. In the same way every moral 


failure is going to cause trouble, probably to others and certainly to yourself. 
By talking about rules and obedience instead of "ideals" and "idealism" we 
help to remind ourselves of these facts. 

Now let us go a step further. There are two ways in which the human ma- 
chine goes wrong. One is when human individuals drift apart from one anoth- 
er, or else collide with one another and do one another damage, by cheating or 
bullying. The other is when things go wrong inside the individual — when the 
different parts of him (his different faculties and desires and so on) either drift 
apart or interfere with one another. You can get the idea plain if you think of 
us as a fleet of ships sailing in formation. The voyage will be a success only, 
in the first place, if the ships do not collide and get in one another's way; and, 
secondly, if each ship is seaworthy and has her engines in good order. As a 
matter of faet, you cannot have either of these two things without the other. If 
the ships keep on having collisions they will not remain seaworthy very long. 
On the other hånd, if their steering gears are out of order they will not be able 
to avoid collisions. Or, if you like, think of humanity as a band playing a tune. 
To get a good result, you need two things. Each player's individual instrument 
must be in tune and also each must come in at the right moment so as to 
combine with all the others. 

But there is one thing we have not yet taken into account. We have not 
asked where the fleet is trying to get to, or what piece of music the band is try- 
ing to play. The instruments might be all in tune and might all come in at the 
right moment, but even so the performance would not be a success if they had 
been engaged to provide dance music and actually played nothing but Dead 
Marches. And however well the fleet sailed, its voyage would be a failure if it 
were meant to reach New York and actually arrived at Calcutta. 

Morality, then, seems to be concerned with three things. Firstly, with fair 
play and harmony between individuals. Secondly, with what might be called 
tidying up or harmonising the things inside each individual. Thirdly, with 
the general purpose of human life as a whole: what man was made for: what 
course the whole fleet ought to be on: what tune the conductor of the band 
wants it to play. 

You may have noticed that modern people are nearly always thinking about 
the first thing and forgetting the other two. When people say in the newspa- 
pers that we are striving for Christian moral standards, they usually mean 
that we are striving for kindness and fair play between nations, and classes, 
and individuals; that is, they are thinking only of the first thing. When a man 
says about something he wants to do, "It can't be wrong because it doesn't do 
anyone else any harm," he is thinking only of the first thing. He is thinking it 
does not matter what his ship is like inside provided that he does not run into 
the next ship. And it is quite natural, when we start thinking about morality, 
to begin with the first thing, with social relations. For one thing, the results 
of bad morality in that sphere are so obvious and press on us every day: war 



and poverty and graft and lies and shoddy work. And also, as long as you stick 
to the first thing, there is very little disagreement about morality. Almost all 
people at all times have agreed (in theory) that human beings ought to be 
honest and kind and helpful to one another. But though it is natural to begin 
with all that, if our thinking about morality stops there, we might just as well 
not have thought at all. Unless we go on to the second thing — the tidying up 
inside each human being — we are only deceiving ourselves. 

What is the good of telling the ships how to steer so as to avoid collisions if, 
in faet, they are such crazy old tubs that they cannot be steered at all? What 
is the good of drawing up, on paper, rules for social behaviour, if we know 
that, in faet, our greed, cowardice, ill temper, and self-conceit are going to 
prevent us from keeping them? I do not mean for a moment that we ought 
not to think, and think hard, about improvements in our social and economic 
system. What I do mean is that all that thinking will be mere moonshine un¬ 
less we realise that nothing but the courage and unselfishness of individuals is 
ever going to make any system work properly. It is easy enough to remove the 
particular kinds of graft or bullying that go on under the present system: but 
as long as men are twisters or bullies they will find some new way of carrying 
on the old game under the new system. You cannot make men good by law: 
and without good men you cannot have a good society. That is why we must 
go on to think of the second thing: of morality inside the individual. 

But I do not think we can stop there either. We are now getting to the point 
at which different beliefs about the universe lead to different behaviour. And 
it would seem, at first sight, very sensible to stop before we got there, and just 
carry on with those parts of morality that all sensible people agree about. But 
can we? Remember that religion involves a series of statements about facts, 
which must be either true or false. If they are true, one set of conclusions 
will follow about the right sailing of the human fleet: if they are false, quite 
a different set. For example, let us go back to the man who says that a thing 
cannot be wrong unless it hurts some other human being. He quite under¬ 
stands that he must not damage the other ships in the convoy, but he honestly 
thinks that what he does to his own ship is simply his own business. But does 
it not make a great difference whether his ship is his own property or not? 
Does it not make a great difference whether I am, so to speak, the landlord of 
my own mind and body, or only a tenant, responsible to the real landlord? If 
somebody else made me, for his own purposes, then I shall have a lot of duties 
which I should not have if I simply belonged to myself. 

Again, Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to 
live for ever, and this must be either true or false. Now there are a good many 
things which would not be worth bothering about if I were going to live only 
seventy years, but which I had better bother about very seriously if I am going 
to live for ever. Perhaps my bad temper or my jealousy are gradually getting 
worse — so gradually that the inerease in seventy years will not be very no- 



ticeable. But it might be absolute hell in a million years: in faet, if Christianity 
is true, Hell is the precisely correct technical term for what it would be. And 
immortality makes this other difference, which, by the by, has a connection 
with the difference between totalitarianism and democracy. If individuals live 
only seventy years, then a State, or a nation, or a civilisation, which may last 
for a thousand years, is more important than an individual. But if Christian¬ 
ity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably 
more important, for he is everlasting and the life of a State or a civilisation, 
compared with his, is only a moment. 

It seems, then, that if we are to think about morality, we must think of all 
three departments: relations between man and man: things inside each man: 
and relations between man and the power that made him. We can all cooper- 
ate in the first one. Disagreements begin with the second and become serious 
with the third. It is in dealing with the third that the main differences between 
Christian and non-Christian morality come out. For the rest of this book I am 
going to assume the Christian point of view, and look at the whole picture as 
it will be if Christianity is true. 


T he previous section was originally composed to be given as a short talk 
on the air. 

If you are allowed to talk for only ten minutes, pretty well every- 
thing else has to be sacrificed to brevity. One of my chief reasons for dividing 
morality up into three parts (with my picture of the ships sailing in convoy) 
was that this seemed the shortest way of covering the ground. Here I want to 
give some idea of another way in which the subject has been divided by old 
writers, which was too long to use in my talk, but which is a very good one. 

According to this longer scheme there are seven "virtues." Four of them 
are called "Cardinal" virtues, and the remaining three are called "Theological" 
virtues. The "Cardinal" ones are those which all civilised people recognise: the 
"Theological" are those which, as a rule, only Christians know about. I shall 
deal with the Theological ones later on: at present I am talking about the four 
Cardinal virtues. (The word 'kardinal" has nothing to do with "Cardinals" in 
the Roman Church. It comes from a Latin word meaning "the hinge of a door." 
These were called 'kardinal" virtues because they are, as we should say, "piv¬ 

Prudence means practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out 
what you are doing and what is likely to come of it. Nowadays most people 
hardly think of Prudence as one of the "virtues." In faet, because Christ said 
we could only get into His world by being like children, many Christians have 
the idea that, provided you are "good," it does not matter being a fool. But that 



is a misunderstanding. In the first place, most children show plenty of "pru- 
dence" about doing the things they are really interested in, and think them out 
quite sensibly. In the second place, as St, Paul points out, Christ never meant 
that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary, He told us to 
be not only "as harmless as doves," but also "as wise as serpents." He wants a 
child's heart, but a grown-up's head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, 
affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit 
of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim. 
The faet that you are giving money to a charity does not mean that you need 
not try to find out whether that charity is a fraud or not. The faet that what 
you are thinking about is God Himself (for example, when you are praying) 
does not mean that you can be content with the same babyish ideas which you 
had when you were a five-year-old. It is, of course, quite true that God will 
not love you any the less, or have less use for you, if you happen to have been 
born with a very second-rate brain. He has room for people with very little 
sense, but He wants every one to use what sense they have. The proper motto 
is not "Be good, sweet maid, and let who can be elever," but "Be good, sweet 
maid, and don't forget that this involves being as elever as you can." God is no 
fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking 
of becoming a Christian, I warn you you are embarking on something which 
is going to take the whole of you, brains and all. But, fortunately, it works the 
other way round. Anyone who is honestly trying to be a Christian will soon 
find his intelligence being sharpened: one of the reasons why it needs no spe¬ 
cial education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself. That 
is why an uneducated believer like Bunyan was able to write a book that has 
astonished the whole world. 

Temperance is, unfortunately, one of those words that has changed its 
meaning. It now usually means teetotalism. But in the days when the sec¬ 
ond Cardinal virtue was christened "Temperance," it meant nothing of the 
sort. Temperance referred not specially to drink, but to all pleasures; and it 
meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further. It is a mistake 
to think that Christians ought all to be teetotallers; Mohammedanism, not 
Christianity, is the teetotal religion. Of course it may be the duty of a particu- 
lar Christian, or of any Christian, at a particular time, to abstain from strong 
drink, either because he is the sort of man who cannot drink at all without 
drinking too mueh, or because he wants to give the money to the poor, or 
because he is with people who are inelined to drunkenness and must not en- 
courage them by drinking himself. But the whole point is that he is abstaining, 
for a good reason, from something which he does not condemn and which 
he likes to see other people enjoying. One of the marks of a certain type of 
bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one 
else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may 
see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons — marriage, or meat, 



or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in 
themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has 
taken the wrong turning. 

One great piece of mischief has been done by the modern restriction of the 
word Temperance to the question of drink. It helps people to forget that you 
can be just as intemperate about lots of other things. A man who makes his 
golf or his motor-bicycle the centre of his life, or a woman who devotes all 
her thoughts to clothes or bridge or her dog, is being just as "intemperate" as 
someone who gets drunk every evening. Of course, it does not show on the 
outside so easily: bridge-mania or golf-mania do not make you fall down in 
the middle of the road. But God is not deceived by externals. 

Justice means much more than the sort of thing that goes on in law courts. 
It is the old name for everything we should now call "fairness"; it includes 
honesty, give and take, truthfulness, keeping promises, and all that side of life. 
And Fortitude includes both kinds of courage — the kind that faces danger 
as well as the kind that "sticks it" under pain. "Guts" is perhaps the nearest 
modern English. You will notice, of course, that you cannot practise any of the 
other virtues very long without bringing this one into play. 

There is one further point about the virtues that ought to be noticed. There 
is a difference between doing some particular just or temperate action and 
being a just or temperate man. Someone who is not a good tennis player may 
now and then make a good shot. What you mean by a good player is the man 
whose eye and muscles and nerves have been so trained by making innumer- 
able good shots that they can now be relied on. They have a certain tone or 
quality which is there even when he is not playing, just as a mathematician's 
mind has a certain habit and Outlook which is there even when he is not doing 
mathematics. In the same way a man who perseveres in doing just actions gets 
in the end a certain quality of character. Now it is that quality rather than the 
particular actions which we mean when we talk of "virtue." 

This distinction is important for the following reason. If we thought only of 
the particular actions we might encourage three wrong ideas. 

(1) We might think that, provided you did the right thing, it did not matter 
how or why you did it — whether you did it willingly or unwillingly, sulkily or 
cheerfully, through fear of public opinion or for its own sake. But the truth is 
that right actions done for the wrong reason do not help to build the internal 
quality or character called a "virtue," and it is this quality or character that re¬ 
ally matters. (If the bad tennis player hits very hard, not because he sees that 
a very hard stroke is required, but because he has lost his temper, his stroke 
might possibly, by luck, help him to win that particular game; but it will not 
be helping him to become a reliable player.) 

(2) We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules: 
whereas He really wants people of a particular sort. 

(3) We might think that the "virtues" were necessary only for this present 



life — that in the other world we could stop being just because there is noth- 
ing to quarrel about and stop being brave because there is no danger. Now it is 
quite true that there will probably be no occasion for just or courageous acts 
in the next world, but there will be every occasion for being the sort of people 
that we can become only as the result of doing such acts here. The point is not 
that God will refuse you admission to His eternal world if you have not got 
certain qualities of character: the point is that if people have not got at least 
the beginnings of those qualities inside them, then no possible external con- 
ditions could make a "Heaven" for them — that is, could make them happy 
with the deep, strong, unshakable kind of happiness God intends for us. 


he first thing to get clear about Christian morality between man and 

man is that in this department Christ did not come to preach any 

.X. brand new morality. The Golden Rule of the New Testament (Do as 
you would be done by) is a summing up of what everyone, at bottom, had 
always known to be right. Really great moral teachers never do introduce new 
moralities: it is quacks and cranks who do that. As Dr. Johnson said, "People 
need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed." The real 
job of every moral teacher is to keep on bringing us back, time after time, to 
the old simple principles which we are all so anxious not to see; like bringing 
a horse back and back to the fence it has refused to jump or bringing a child 
back and back to the bit in its lesson that it wants to shirk. 

The second thing to get clear is that Christianity has not, and does not pro- 
fess to have, a detailed political programme for applying "Do as you would be 
done by" to a particular society at a particular moment. It could not have. It is 
meant for all men at all times and the particular programme which suited one 
place or time would not suit another. And, anyhow, that is not how Christian¬ 
ity works. When it tells you to feed the hungry it does not give you lessons in 
cookery. When it tells you to read the Scriptures it does not give you lessons 
in Hebrew and Greek, or even in English grammar. It was never intended to 
replace or supersede the ordinary human arts and Sciences: it is rather a direc¬ 
tor which will set them all to the right jobs, and a source of energy which will 
give them all new life, if only they will put themselves at its disposal. 

People say, "The Church ought to give us a lead." That is true if they mean it 
in the right way, but false if they mean it in the wrong way. By the Church they 
ought to mean the whole body of practising Christians. And when they say 
that the Church should give us a lead, they ought to mean that some Chris¬ 
tians — those who happen to have the right talents — should be economists 
and statesmen, and that all economists and statesmen should be Christians, 
and that their whole efforts in politics and economics should be directed to 



putting "Do as you would be done by" into action. If that happened, and if we 
others were really ready to take it, then we should find the Christian solution 
for our own social problems pretty quickly. But, of course, when they ask for a 
lead from the Church most people mean they want the clergy to put out a po- 
litical programme. That is silly. The clergy are those particular people within 
the whole Church who have been specially trained and set aside to look after 
what concerns us as creatures who are going to live for ever: and we are asking 
them to do a quite different job for which they have not been trained. The job 
is really on us, on the laymen. The application of Christian principles, say, to 
trade unionism or education, must come from Christian trade unionists and 
Christian schoolmasters: just as Christian literature comes from Christian 
novelists and dramatists — not from the bench of bishops getting together 
and trying to write plays and novels in their spare time. 

All the same, the New Testament, without going into details, gives us a 
pretty clear hint of what a fully Christian society would be like. Perhaps it 
gives us more than we can take. It tells us that there are to be no passengers 
or parasites: if man does not work, he ought not to eat. Every one is to work 
with his own hånds, and what is more, every one's work is to produce some- 
thing good: there will be no manufacture of silly luxuries and then of sillier 
advertisements to persuade us to buy them. And there is to be no "swank" or 
"side," no putting on airs. To that extent a Christian society would be what 
we now call Leftist. On the other hånd, it is always insisting on obedience — 
obedience (and outward marks of respect) from all of us to properly appoint- 
ed magistrates, from children to parents, and (I am afraid this is going to be 
very unpopular) from wives to husbands. Thirdly, it is to be a cheerful soci¬ 
ety: full of singing and rejoicing, and regarding worry or anxiety as wrong. 
Courtesy is one of the Christian virtues; and the New Testament hates what 
it calls "busybodies." 

If there were such a society in existence and you or I visited it, I think we 
should come away with a curious impression. We should feel that its econom- 
ic life was very socialistic and, in that sense, "advanced," but that its family life 
and its code of manners were rather old-fashioned — perhaps even ceremo- 
nious and aristocratic. Each of us would like some bits of it, but I am afraid 
very few of us would like the whole thing. That is just what one would expect 
if Christianity is the total plan for the human machine. We have all departed 
from that total plan in different ways, and each of us wants to make out that 
his own modification of the original plan is the plan itself. You will find this 
again and again about anything that is really Christian: every one is attracted 
by bits of it and wants to pick out those bits and leave the rest. That is why we 
do not get much further: and that is why people who are fighting for quite op- 
posite things can both say they are fighting for Christianity. 

Now another point. There is one bit of advice given to us by the ancient 
heathen Greeks, and by the Jews in the Old Testament, and by the great Chris- 



tian teachers of the Middle Ages, which the modern economic system has 
completely disobeyed. All these people told us not to lend money at interest: 
and lending money at interest — what we call investment — is the basis of 
our whole system. Now it may not absolutely follow that we are wrong. Some 
people say that when Moses and Aristotle and the Christians agreed in for- 
bidding interest (or "usury" as they called it), they could not foresee the joint 
stock company, and were only dunking of the private moneylender, and that, 
therefore, we need not bother about what they said. That is a question I can- 
not decide on. I am not an economist and I simply do not know whether the 
investment system is responsible for the State we are in or not This is where we 
want the Christian economist But I should not have been honest if I had not 
told you that three great civilisations had agreed (or so it seems at first sight) 
in condemning the very thing on which we have based our whole life. 

One more point and I am done. In the passage where the New Testament 
says that every one must work, it gives as a reason "in order that he may have 
something to give to those in need." Charity-giving to the poor — is an es- 
sential part of Christian morality: in the frightening parable of the sheep and 
the goats it seems to be the point on which everything turns. Some people 
nowadays say that charity ought to be unnecessary and that instead of giving 
to the poor we ought to be producing a society in which there were no poor to 
give to. They may be quite right in saying that we ought to produce that kind 
of society. But if anyone thinks that, as a consequence, you can stop giving in 
the meantime, then he has parted company with all Christian morality. I do 
not believe one can settie how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only 
safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure 
on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among 
those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too lit- 
tle. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too 
small There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because 
our charitable expenditure excludes them. I am speaking now of "charities" 
in the common way. Particular cases of distress among your own relatives, 
friends, neighbours or employees, which God, as it were, forces upon your 
notice, may demand much more: even to the crippling and endangering of 
your own position. For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in our 
luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear — fear of insecurity. 
This must often be recognised as a temptation. Sometimes our pride also hin¬ 
ders our charity; we are tempted to spend more than we ought on the showy 
forms of generosity (tipping, hospitality) and less than we ought on those who 
really need our help. 

And now, before I end, I am going to venture on a guess as to how this sec- 
tion has affected any who have read it My guess is that there are some Leftist 
people among them who are very angry that it has not gone further in that 
direction, and some people of an opposite sort who are angry because they 



think it has gone much too far. If so, that brings us right up against the real 
snag in all this drawing up of blueprints for a Christian society. Most of us are 
not really approaching the subject in order to find out what Christianity says: 
we are approaching it in the hope of finding support from Christianity for the 
views of our own party. We are looking for an ally where we are offered either 
a Master or — a Judge. I am just the same. There are bits in this section that 
I wanted to leave out. And that is why nothing whatever is going to come of 
such talks unless we go a much longer way round. A Christian society is not 
going to arrive until most of us really want it: and we are not going to want 
it until we become fully Christian. I may repeat "Do as you would be done 
by" till I am black in the face, but I cannot really carry it out till I love my 
neighbour as myself: and I cannot learn to love my neighbour as myself till I 
learn to love God: and I cannot learn to love God except by learning to obey 
Him. And so, as I warned you, we are driven on to something more inward — 
driven on from social matters to religious matters. For the longest way round 
is the shortest way home. 


I have said that we should never get a Christian society unless most of us 
became Christian individuals. That does not mean, of course, that we can 
put off doing anything about society until some imaginary date in the far 
future. It means that we must begin both jobs at once — (1) the job of seeing 
how "Do as you would be done by" can be applied in detail to modern society, 
and (2) the job of becoming the sort of people who really would apply it if we 
saw how. I now want to begin considering what the Christian idea of a good 
man is — the Christian specification for the human machine. 

Before I come down to details there are two more general points I should 
like to make. First of all, since Christian morality claims to be a technique for 
putting the human machine right, I think you would like to know how it is 
related to another technique which seems to make a similar claim — namely, 
psychoan alysis. 

Now you want to distinguish very clearly between two things: between the 
actual medical theories and technique of the psychoanalysts, and the general 
philosophical view of the world which Freud and some others have gone on 
to add to this. The second thing — the philosophy of Freud — is in direct 
contradiction to Christianity: and also in direct contradiction to the other 
great psychologist, Jung. And furthermore, when Freud is talking about how 
to cure neurotics he is speaking as a specialist on his own subject, but when 
he goes on to talk general philosophy he is speaking as an amateur. It is there- 
fore quite sensible to attend to him with respect in the one case and not in 
the other — and that is what I do. I am all the readier to do it because I have 



found that when he is talking offhis own subject and on a subject I do know 
something about (namely, languages) he is very ignorant. But psychoanalysis 
itself, apart from all the philosophical additions that Freud and others have 
made to it, is not in the least contradictory to Christianity. Its technique over¬ 
laps with Christian morality at some points and it would not be a bad thing if 
every parson knew something about it: but it does not run the same course all 
the way, for the two techniques are doing rather different things. 

When a man makes a moral choice two things are involved. One is the act 
of choosing. The other is the various feelings, impulses and so on which his 
psychological outfit presents him with, and which are the raw material of his 
choice. Now this raw material may be of two kinds. Either it may be what we 
would call normal: it may consist of the sort of feelings that are common to all 
men. Or else it may consist of quite unnatural feelings due to things that have 
gone wrong in his subconscious. Thus fear of things that are really danger - 
ous would be an example of the first kind: an irrational fear of cats or spiders 
would be an example of the second kind. The desire of a man for a woman 
would be of the first kind: the perverted desire of a man for a man would be 
of the second. Now what psychoanalysis undertakes to do is to remove the 
abnormal feelings, that is, to give the man better raw material for his acts of 
choice: morality is concerned with the acts of choice themselves. 

Put it this way. Imagine three men who go to war. One has the ordinary 
natural fear of danger that any man has and he subdues it by moral effort 
and becomes a brave man. Let us suppose that the other two have, as a result 
of things in their sub-consciousness, exaggerated, irrational fears, which no 
amount of moral effort can do anything about. Now suppose that a psychoan- 
alyst comes along and cures these two: that is, he puts them both back in the 
position of the first man. Well it is just then that the psychoanalytical problem 
is over and the moral problem begins. Because, now that they are cured, these 
two men might take quite different lines. The first might say, "Thank goodness 
I've got rid of all those doodahs. Now at last I can do what I always wanted 
to do — my duty to the cause of freedom." But the other might say, "Well, 
I'm very glad that I now feel moderately cool under fire, but, of course, that 
doesn't alter the faet that I'm still jolly well determined to look after Number 
One and let the other chap do the dangerous job whenever I can. Indeed one 
of the good things about feeling less frightened is that I can now look after 
myself mueh more efhciently and can be mueh eleverer at hiding the faet from 
the others." Now this difference is a purely moral one and psychoanalysis can- 
not do anything about it. However mueh you improve the mans raw material, 
you have still got something else: the real, free choice of the man, on the mate¬ 
rial presented to him, either to put his own advantage first or to put it last And 
this$ free choice is the only thing that morality is concerned with. 

The bad psychological material is not a sin but a disease. It does not need to 
be repented of, but to be cured. And by the way, that is very important. Hu- 



man beings judge one another by their external actions. God judges them by 
their moral choices. When a neurotic who has a pathological horror of cats 
forces himself to pick up a cat for some good reason, it is quite possible that in 
Gods eyes he has shown more courage than a healthy man may have shown 
in winning the V.C. When a man who has been perverted from his youth and 
taught that cruelty is the right thing, does some tiny little kindness, or refrains 
from some cruelty he might have committed, and thereby, perhaps, risks be- 
ing sneered at by his companions, he may, in Gods eyes, be doing more than 
you and I would do if we gave up life itself for a friend. 

It is as well to put this the other way round. Some of us who seem quite 
nice people may, in faet, have made so little use of a good heredity and a good 
upbringing that we are really worse than those whom we regard as fiends. Can 
we be quite certain how we should have behaved if we had been saddled with 
the psychological outfit, and then with the bad upbringing, and then with the 
power, say, of Himmler? That is why Christians are told not to judge. 

We see only the results which a mans choices make out of his raw material. 
But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has 
done with it. Most of the mans psychological make-up is probably due to his 
body: when his body dies all that will fali off him, and the real central man. 
the thing that chose, that made the hest or the worst out of this material, will 
stand naked. All sorts of nice things which we thought our own, but which 
were really due to a good digestion, will fali off some of us: all sorts of nasty 
things which were due to complexes or bad health will fali off others. We shall 
then, for the first tune, see every one as he really was. There will be surprises. 

And that leads on to my second point. People often think of Christian mo- 
rality as a kind of bargain in which God says, "If you keep a lot of rules I'll 
reward you, and if you don't I'll do the other thing." I do not think that is the 
hest way of looking at it. I would mueh rather say that every time you make 
a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, 
into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life 
as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly 
turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish crea- 
ture: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other crea- 
tures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a State of war and hatred with 
God, and with its fellow — creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of 
creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be 
the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneli- 
ness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one State or the other. 

That explains what always used to puzzle me about Christian writers; they 
seem to be so very strict at one moment and so very free and easy at another. 
They talk about mere sins of thought as if they were immensely important: 
and then they talk about the most frightful murders and treacheries as if you 
had only got to repent and all would be forgiven. But I have come to see that 



they are right. What they are always thinking of is the mark which the action 
leaves on that tiny central self which no one sees in this life but which each of 
us will have to endure — or enjoy — for ever. One man may be so placed that 
his anger sheds the biood of thousands, and another so placed that however 
angry he gets he will only be laughed at. But the little mark on the soul may 
be much the same in both. Each has done something to himself which, unless 
he repents, will make it harder for him to keep out of the rage next time he is 
tempted, and will make the rage worse when he does fail into it. Each of them, 
if he seriously turns to God, can have that twist in the central man straight- 
ened out again: each is, in the long run, doomed if he will not. The bigness or 
smallness of the thing, seen from the outside, is not what really matters. 

One last point. Remember that, as I said, the right direction leads not only 
to peace but to knowledge. When a man is getting better he understands 
more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is get¬ 
ting worse, he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad 
man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. 
This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not 
while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind 
is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You 
can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you 
are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not 
know about either. 


W e must now consider Christian morality as regards sex, what 
Christians call the virtue of chastity. The Christian rule of chas- 
tity must not be confused with the social rule of "modesty" (in 
one sense of that word); i.e. propriety, or decency. The social rule of propri- 
ety lays down how much of the human body should be displayed and what 
subjects can be referred to, and in what words, according to the customs of 
a given social circle. Thus, while the rule of chastity is the same for all Chris¬ 
tians at all times, the rule of propriety changes. A giri in the Pacific islands 
wearing hardly any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes 
might both be equally "modest," proper, or decent, according to the standards 
of their own societies: and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might 
be equally chaste (or equally unchaste). Some of the language which chaste 
women used in Shakespeare's time would have been used in the nineteenth 
century only by a woman completely abandoned. When people break the rule 
of propriety current in their own time and place, if they do so in order to ex- 
cite lust in themselves or others, then they are offending against chastity. But 
if they break it through ignorance or carelessness they are guilty only of bad 



manners. When, as often happens, they break it defiantly in order to shock or 
embarrass others, they are not necessarily being unchaste, but they are being 
uncharitable: for it is uncharitable to take pleasure in making other people 
uncomfortable. I do not think that a very strict or fussy standard of propriety 
is any proof of chastity or any help to it, and I therefore regard the great re- 
laxation and simplifying of the rule which has taken place in my own lifetime 
as a good thing. At its present stage, however, it has this inconvenience, that 
people of different ages and different types do not all acknowledge the same 
standard, and we hardly know where we are. While this confusion lasts I think 
that old, or old-fashioned, people should be very careful not to assume that 
young or "emancipated" people are corrupt whenever they are (by the old 
standard) improper; and, in return, that young people should not call their 
elders prudes or puritans because they do not easily adopt the new standard. 
A real desire to believe all the good you can of others and to make others as 
comfortable as you can will solve most of the problems. 

Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no get- 
ting away from it: the old Christian rule is, "Either marriage, with complete 
faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence." Now this is so difficult 
and so contrary to our instinets, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or 
our sexual instinet, as it now is, has gone wrong. One or the other. Of course, 
being a Christian, I think it is the instinet which has gone wrong. 

But I have other reasons for thinking so. The biological purpose of sex is 
children, just as the biological purpose of eating is to repair the body. Now if 
we eat whenever we feel inelined and just as mueh as we want, it is quite true 
that most of us will eat too mueh: but not terrifically too mueh. One man may 
eat enough for two, but he does not eat enough for ten. The appetite goes a lit- 
tle beyond its biological purpose, but not enormously. But if a healthy young 
man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inelined, and if each act 
produced a baby, then in ten years he might easily populate a small village. 
This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its funetion. 

Or take it another way. You can get a large audience together for a strip¬ 
tease act — that is, to watch a giri undress on the stage. Now suppose you 
came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered 
plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one 
see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of 
bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong 
with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a 
different world think there was something equally queer about the State of the 
sex instinet among us? 

One critic said that if he found a country in which such striptease acts with 
food were popular, he would conclude that the people of that country were 
starving. He meant, of course, to imply that such things as the strip-tease act 
resulted not from sexual corruption but from sexual starvation. I agree with 



him that if, in some strange land, we found that similar acts with mutton 
chops were popular, one of the possible explanations which would occur to 
me would be famine. But the next step would be to test our hypothesis by 
finding out whether, in faet, mueh or little food was being consumed in that 
country. If the evidence showed that a good deal was being eaten, then of 
course we should have to abandon the hypothesis of starvation and try to 
think of another one. In the same way, before accepting sexual starvation as 
the cause of the strip-tease, we should have to look for evidence that there is 
in faet more sexual abstinence in our age than in those ages when things like 
the strip-tease were unknown. But surely there is no such evidence. Contra- 
ceptives have made sexual indulgence far less costly within marriage and far 
safer outside it than ever before, and public opinion is less hostile to illicit 
unions and even to perversion than it has been since Pagan times. Nor is the 
hypothesis of "starvation" the only one we can imagine. Everyone knows that 
the sexual appetite, like our other appetites, grows by indulgence. Starving 
men may think mueh about food, but so do gluttons; the gorged, as well as the 
famished, like titillations. 

Here is a third point. You find very few people who want to eat things that 
really are not food or to do other things with food instead of eating it. In other 
words, perversions of the food appetite are rare. But perversions of the sex 
instinet are numerous, hard to cure, and frightful. I am sorry to have to go 
into all these details, but I must. The reason why I must is that you and I, for 
the last twenty years, have been fed all day long on good solid lies about sex. 
We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same 
State as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the silly 
old Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It 
is not true. The moment you look at the facts, and away from the propaganda, 
you see that it is not. 

Ihey tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up. But for the 
last twenty years it has not been hushed up. It has been chattered about all day 
long. Yet it is still in a mess. If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, 
ventilation would have set it right. But it has not. I think it is the other way 
round. I think the human race originally hushed it up because it had become 
such a mess. Modern people are always saying, "Sex is nothing to be ashamed 
of." They may mean two things. They may mean "There is nothing to be 
ashamed of in the faet that the human race reproduces itself in a certain way, 
nor in the faet that it gives pleasure." If they mean that, they are right. Chris- 
tianity says the same. It is not the thing, nor the pleasure, that is the trouble. 
The old Christian teachers said that if man had never fallen, sexual pleasure, 
instead of being less than it is now, would actually have been greater. I know 
some muddle-headed Christians have talked as if Christianity thought that 
sex, or the body, or pleasure, were bad in themselves. But they were wrong. 
Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly 



approves of the body — which believes that matter is good, that God Himself 
once took on a human body, that some kind of body is going to be given to 
us even in Heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness, our 
beauty, and our energy. Christianity has glorified marriage more than any 
other religion: and nearly all the greatest love poetry in the world has been 
produced by Christians. If anyone says that sex, in itself, is bad, Christianity 
contradicts him at once. But, of course, when people say, "Sex is nothing to be 
ashamed of," they may mean "the State into which the sexual instinet has now 
got is nothing to be ashamed of." 

If they mean that, I think they are wrong. I think it is everything to be 
ashamed of. There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there 
would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main 
interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and drib- 
bling and smacking their lips. I do not say you and I are individually responsi- 
ble for the present situation. Our ancestors have handed over to us organisms 
which are warped in this respect: and we grow up surrounded by propaganda 
in favour of unchastity. There are people who want to keep our sex instinet 
inflamed in order to make money out of us. Because, of course, a man with 
an obsession is a man who has very little sales-resistance. God knows our 
situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What 
matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them. 

Before we can be cured we must want to be cured. Those who really wish 
for help will get it; but for many modern people even the wish is difficult. 
It is easy to think that we want something when we do not really want it. A 
famous Christian long ago told us that when he was a young man he prayed 
constantly for chastity; but years later he realised that while his lips had been 
saying, "Oh Lord, make me chaste," his heart had been secretly adding, "But 
piease don't do it just yet." This may happen in prayers for other virtues too; 
but there are three reasons why it is now specially difficult for us to desire — 
let alone to achieve — complete chastity. 

In the hrst place our warped natures, the devils who tempt us, and all the 
contemporary propaganda for lust, combine to make us feel that the desires 
we are resisting are so "natural," so "healthy," and so reasonable, that it is al¬ 
most perverse and abnormal to resist them. Poster after poster, film after film, 
novel after novel, associate the idea of sexual indulgence with the ideas of 
health, normality, youth, frankness, and good humour. Now this association 
is a lie. Like all powerful lies, it is based on a truth — the truth, acknowledged 
above, that sex in itself (apart from the excesses and obsessions that have 
grown round it) is "normal" and "healthy," and all the rest of it. The lie consists 
in the suggestion that any sexual act to which you are tempted at the moment 
is also healthy and normal. Now this, on any conceivable view, and quite apart 
from Christianity, must be nonsense. Surrender to all our desires obviously 
leads to impotence, disease, jealousies, lies, concealment, and everything that 



is the reverse of health, good humour, and frankness. For any happiness, even 
in this world, quite a lot of restraint is going to be necessary; so the claim 
made by every desire, when it is strong, to be healthy and reasonable, counts 
for nothing. Every sane and civibsed man must have some set of principles by 
which he chooses to reject some of his desires and to permit others. One man 
does this on Christian principles, another on hygienic principles, another on 
sociological principles. The real conflict is not between Christianity and "na¬ 
ture," but between Christian principle and other principles in the control of 
"nature." For "nature" (in the sense of natural desire) will have to be controlled 
anyway, unless you are going to ruin your whole life. The Christian principles 
are, admittedly, stricter than the others; but then we think you will get help 
towards obeying them which you will not get towards obeying the others. 

In the second place, many people are deterred from seriously attempting 
Christian chastity because they think (before trying) that it is impossible. But 
when a thing has to be attempted, one must never think about possibility or 
impossibility. Faced with an optional question in an examination paper, one 
considers whether one can do it or not: faced with a compulsory question, 
one must do the hest one can. You may get some marks for a very imperfect 
answer: you will certainly get none for leaving the question alone. Not only in 
examinations but in war, in mountain climbing, in learning to skate, or swim, 
or ride a bicycle, even in fastening a stiff collar with cold fingers, people quite 
often do what seemed impossible before they did it. It is wonderful what you 
can do when you have to. 

We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity — like perfect charity — will 
not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for Gods help. 
Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, 
or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask 
forgiveness, pickyourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us 
towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For 
however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) 
may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important 
still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. 
We learn, on the one hånd, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our hest 
moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for 
our failures are forgiven. The only fatal thing is to sit down content with any- 
thing less than perfection. 

Thirdly, people often misunderstand what psychology teaches about "re¬ 
pressions." It teaches us that "repressed" sex is dangerous. But "repressed" is 
here a technical term: it does not mean "suppressed" in the sense of "denied" 
or "resisted." A repressed desire or thought is one which has been thrust into 
the subconscious (usually at a very early age) and can now come before the 
mind only in a disguised and unrecognisable form. Repressed sexuality does 
not appear to the patient to be sexuality at all. When an adolescent or an adult 



is engaged in resisting a conscious desire, he is not dealing with a repression 
nor is he in the least danger of creating a repression. On the contrary, those 
who are seriously attempting chastity are more conscious, and soon know a 
great deal more about their own sexuality than anyone else. They come to 
know their desires as Wellington knew Napoleon, or as Sherlock Holmes 
knew Moriarty; as a rat-catcher knows rats or a plumber knows about leaky 
pipes. Virtue — even attempted virtue — brings light; indulgence brings fog. 

Finally, though I have had to speak at some length about sex, I want to 
make it as clear as I possibly can that the centre of Christian morality is not 
here. If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, 
he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of 
all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting 
other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and 
back-biting; the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside 
me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the 
Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. 
That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far 
nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither. 


T he last chapter was mainly negative. I discussed what was wrong with 
the sexual impulse in man, but said very little about its right work- 
ing — in other words, about Christian marriage. There are two rea- 
sons why I do not particularly want to deal with marriage. The first is that 
the Christian doctrines on this subject are extremely unpopular. The second 
is that I have never been married myself, and, therefore, can speak only at 
second hånd. But in spite of that, I feel I can hardly leave the subject out in 
an account of Christian morals. The Christian idea of marriage is based on 
Christ's words that a man and wife are to be regarded as a single organism — 
for that is what the words "one flesh" would be in modern English. And the 
Christians believe that when He said this He was not expressing a sentiment 
but stating a faet — just as one is stating a faet when one says that a lock and 
its key are one mechanism, or that a violin and a bow are one musical instru¬ 
ment. The inventor of the human machine was telling us that its two halves, 
the male and the female, were made to be combined together in pairs, not 
simply on the sexual level, but totally combined. The monstrosity of sexual 
intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to iso- 
late one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which 
were intended to go along with it and make up the total union. The Christian 
attitude does not mean that there is anything wrong about sexual pleasure, 
any more than about the pleasure of eating. It means that you must not iso- 



late that pleasure and try to get it by itself, any more than you ought to try 
to get the pleasures of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing 
things and spitting them out again. 

As a consequence, Christianity teaches that marriage is for life. There is, of 
course, a difference here between different Churches: some do not admit di- 
vorce at all; some allow it reluctantly in very special cases. It is a great pity that 
Christians should disagree about such a question; but for an ordinary layman 
the thing to notice is that Churches all agree with one another about marriage 
a great deal more than any of them agrees with the outside world. I mean, 
they all regard divorce as something like cutting up a living body, as a kind of 
surgical operation. Some of them think the operation so violent that it cannot 
be done at all; others admit it as a desperate remedy in extreme cases. They 
are all agreed that it is more like having both your legs cut off than it is like 
dissolving a business partnership or even deserting a regiment What they all 
disagree with is the modern view that it is a simple readjustment of partners, 
to be made whenever people feel they are no longer in love with one another, 
or when either of them falis in love with someone else. 

Before we consider this modern view in its relation to chastity, we must not 
forget to consider it in relation to another virtue, namely justice. Justice, as I 
said before, includes the keeping of promises. Now everyone who has been 
married in a church has made a public, solemn promise to stick to his (or her) 
partner till death. The duty of keeping that promise has no special connec- 
tion with sexual morality: it is in the same position as any other promise. If, 
as modern people are always telling us, the sexual impulse is just like all our 
other impulses, then it ought to be treated like all our other impulses; and as 
their indulgence is controlled by our promises, so should its be. If, as I think, 
it is not like all our other impulses, but is morbidly inflamed, then we should 
be especially careful not to let it lead us into dishonesty. 

To this someone may reply that he regarded the promise made in church as 
a mere formality and never intended to keep it. Whom, then, was he trying 
to deceive when he made it? God? That was really very unwise. Himself? That 
was not very much wiser. The bride, or bridegroom, or the "in-laws"? That was 
treacherous. Most off en, I think, the couple (or one of them) hoped to deceive 
the public. They wanted the respectability that is attached to marriage with¬ 
out intending to pay the price: that is, they were imposters, they cheated. If 
they are still contented cheats, I have nothing to say to them: who would urge 
the high and hard duty of chastity on people who have not yet wished to be 
merely honest? If they have now come to their senses and want to be honest, 
their promise, already made, constrains them. And this, you will see, comes 
under the heading of justice, not that of chastity. If people do not believe in 
permanent marriage, it is perhaps better that they should live together un- 
married than that they should make vows they do not mean to keep. It is true 
that by living together without marriage they will be guilty (in Christian eyes) 



of fornication. But one fault is not mended by adding another: unchastity is 
not improved by adding perjury. 

The idea that "being in love" is the only reason for remaining married re¬ 
ally leaves no room for marriage as a contract or promise at all. If love is the 
whole thing, then the promise can add nothing; and if it adds nothing, then 
it should not be made. The curious thing is that lovers themselves, while they 
remain really in love, know this better than those who talk about love. As 
Chesterton pointed out, those who are in love have a natural inclination to 
bind themselves by promises. Love songs all over the world are full of vows 
of eternal constancy. The Christian law is not forcing upon the passion of 
love something which is foreign to that passions own nature: it is demand- 
ing that lovers should take seriously something which their passion of itself 
impels them to do. 

And, of course, the promise, made when I am in love and because I am in 
love, to be true to the beloved as long as I live, commits one to being true even 
if I cease to be in love. A promise must be about things that I can do, about 
actions: no one can promise to go on feeling in a certain way. He might as 
well promise never to have a headache or always to feel hungry. But what, it 
may be asked, is the use of keeping two people together if they are no longer 
in love? There are several sound, social reasons; to provide a home for their 
children, to protect the woman (who has probably sacrificed or damaged her 
own career by getting married) from being dropped whenever the man is 
tired of her. But there is also another reason of which I am very sure, though 
I find it a little hard to explain. 

It is hard because so many people cannot be brought to realise that when 
B is better than C, A may be even better than B. They like thinking in terms 
of good and bad, not of good, better, and best, or bad, worse and worst. They 
want to know whether you think patriotism a good thing: if you reply that it 
is, of course, far better than individual selfishness, but that it is inferior to uni¬ 
versal charity and should always give way to universal charity when the two 
conflict, they think you are being evasive. They ask what you think of dueling. 
If you reply that it is far better to forgive a man than to fight a duel with him, 
but that even a duel might be better than a lifelong enmity which expresses it¬ 
self in secret efforts to "do the man down," they go away complaining that you 
would not give them a straight answer. I hope no one will make this mistake 
about what I am now going to say. 

What we call "being in love" is a glorious State, and, in several ways, good 
for us. It helps to make us generous and courageous, it opens our eyes not only 
to the beauty of the beloved but to all beauty, and it subordinates (especially 
at first) our merely animal sexuality; in that sense, love is the great conqueror 
of lust. No one in his senses would deny that being in love is far better than 
either common sensuality or cold self-centredness. But, as I said before, "the 
most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of our own nature 



and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs." Being in love is a 
good thing, but it is not the hest thing. There are many things below it, but 
there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is 
a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be rebed on to last in 
its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, 
habits can last; but feelings come and go. And in faet, whatever people say, 
the State called "being in love" usually does not last. If the old fairytale ending 
"They lived happily ever atter" is taken to mean "They felt for the next fifty 
years exaetly as they felt the day before they were married," then it says what 
probably never was nor ever could be true, and would be highly undesirable 
if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What 
would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, 
of course, ceasing to be "in love" need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this 
second sense — love as distinet from "being in love" is not merely a feeling. It 
is a deep unity, maintained by the will and debberately strengthened by habit; 
reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both parents ask, and 
receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those mo¬ 
ments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you 
do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if 
they allowed themselves, be "in love" with someone else. "Being in love" first 
moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the 
promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was 
the explosion that started it. 

If you disagree with me, of course, you will say, "He knows nothing about 
it, he is not married." You may quite possibly be right. But before you say that, 
make quite sure that you are judging me by what you really know from your 
own experience and from watching the lives of your friends, and not by ideas 
you have derived from novels and films. This is not so easy to do as people 
think. Our experience is coloured through and through by hooks and plays 
and the cinema, and it takes patience and skiil to disentangle the things we 
have really learned from life for ourselves. 

People get from hooks the idea that if you have married the right person 
you may expect to go on "being in love" for ever. As a result, when they find 
they are not, they think this proves they have made a mistake and are enti- 
tled to a change — not realising that, when they have changed, the glamour 
will presently go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one. In this 
department of life, as in every other, thrills come at the beginning and do not 
last. The sort of thrill a boy has at the first idea of flying will not go on when 
he has joined the R.A.F. and is really learning to fly. The thrill you feel on first 
seeing some delightful place dies away when you really go to live there. Does 
this mean it would be better not to learn to fly and not to live in the beautiful 
place? By no means. In both cases, if you go through with it, the dying away 
of the first thrill will be compensated for by a quieter and more lasting kind of 



interest. What is more (and I can hardly find words to tell you how important 
I think this), it is just the people who are ready to submit to the loss of the 
thrill and settie down to the sober interest, who are then most likely to meet 
new thrills in some quite different direction. The man who has learned to fly 
and becomes a good pilot will suddenly discover music; the man who has set- 
tled down to live in the beauty spot will discover gardening. 

This is, I think, one little part of what Christ meant by saying that a thing 
will not really live unless it first dies. It is simply no good trying to keep any 
thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go — let it die away 
— go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness 
that follow — and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the 
time. But if you decide to make thrills your regular diet and try to prolong 
them artificially, they will all get weaker and weaker, and fewer and fewer, 
and you will be a bored, disillusioned old man for the rest of your life. It is be- 
cause so few people understand this that you find many middle-aged men and 
women maundering about their lost youth, at the very age when new hori- 
zons ought to be appearing and new doors opening all round them. It is much 
better fun to learn to swim than to go on endlessly (and hopelessly) trying to 
get back the feeling you had when you first went paddling as a small boy. 

Another notion we get from novels and plays is that "falling in love" is 
something quite irresistible; something that just happens to one, like measles. 
And because they believe this, some married people throw up the sponge 
and give in when they find themselves attracted by a new acquaintance. But 
I am inclined to think that these irresistible passions are much rarer in real 
life than in hooks, at any rate when one is grown up. When we meet some- 
one beautiful and elever and sympathetic, of course we ought, in one sense, 
to admire and love these good qualities. But is it not very largely in our own 
choice whether this love shall, or shall not, turn into what we call "being in 
love"? No doubt, if our minds are full of novels and plays and sentimental 
songs, and our bodies full of aleohol, we shall turn any love we feel into that 
kind of love: just as if you have a rut in your path all the rainwater will run 
into that rut, and if you wear blue spectacles everything you see will turn 
blue. But that will be our own fault. 

Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two 
things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage 
is one: the other is the quite different question — now far Christians, if they 
are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of mar¬ 
riage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. 
A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you 
should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least 
I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest 
of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly 
recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, there- 



fore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinet 
kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citi- 
zens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own 
members. The distinetion ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which 
couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not 

So mueh for the Christian doctrine about the permanence of marriage. 
Something else, even more unpopular, remains to be dealt with. Christian 
wives promise to obey their husbands. In Christian marriage the man is said 
to be the "head." Two questions obviously arise here, (1) Why should there be 
a head at all — why not equality? (2) Why should it be the man? 

(1) The need for some head follows from the idea that marriage is perma¬ 
nent Of course, as long as the husband and wife are agreed, no question of a 
head need arise; and we may hope that this will be the normal State of affairs 
in a Christian marriage. But when there is a real disagreement, what is to 
happen? Talk it over, of course; but I am assuming they have done that and 
still failed to reach agreement What do they do next? They cannot decide 
by a majority vote, for in a council of two there can be no majority. Surely, 
only one or other of two things can happen: either they must separate and 
go their own ways or else one or other of them must have a casting vote. If 
marriage is permanent, one or other party must, in the last resort, have the 
power of deciding the family policy. You cannot have a permanent associa¬ 
tion without a constitution. 

(2) If there must be a head, why the man? Well, firstly, is there any very seri- 
ous wish that it should be the woman? As I have said, I am not married myself, 
but as far as 1 can see, even a woman who wants to be the head of her own 
house does not usually admire the same State of things when she finds it going 
on next door. She is mueh more likely to say "Poor Mr. X! Why he allows that 
appalling woman to boss him about the way she does is more than I can imag- 
ine." I do not think she is even very nattered if anyone mentions the faet of her 
own "headship." There must be something unnatural about the rule of wives 
over husbands, because the wives themselves are half ashamed of it and de¬ 
spise the husbands whom they rule. But there is also another reason; and here I 
speak quite frankly as a bachelor, because it is a reason you can see from outside 
even better than from inside. The relations of the family to the outer world — 
what might be called its foreign policy — must depend, in the last resort, upon 
the man, because he always ought to be, and usually is, mueh more just to the 
outsiders. A woman is primarily fighting for her own children and husband 
against the rest of the world. Naturally, almost, in a sense, rightly, their claims 
override, for her, all other claims. She is the special trustee of their interests. The 
funetion of the husband is to see that this natural preference of hers is not given 
its head. He has the last word in order to protect other people from the intense 
family patriotism of the wife. If anyone doubts this, let me ask a simple ques¬ 
tion. If your dog has bitten the child next door, or if your child has hurt the dog 



next door, which would you sooner have to deal with, the master of that house 
or the mistress? Or, if you are a married woman, let me ask you this question. 
Much as you admire your husband, would you not say that his chief fading is 
his tendency not to stick up for his rights and yours against the neighbours as 
vigorously as you would like? A bit of an Appeaser? 


I said in a previous chapter that chastity was the most unpopular of the 
Christian virtues. But I am not sure I was right I believe the one I have 
to talk of today is even more unpopular: the Christian rule, "Thou shalt 
love thy neighbour as thyself." Because in Christian morals "thy neighbour" 
includes "thy enemy," and so we come up against this terrible duty of forgiving 
our enemies. Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have some- 
thing to forgive, as we had during the war. And then, to mention the subject 
at all is to be greeted with howls of anger. It is not that people think this too 
high and difficult a virtue: it is that they think it hateful and contemptible. 
"That sort of talk makes them sick," they say. And half of you already want to 
ask me, "I wonder how you'd feel about forgiving the Gestapo if you were a 
Pole or a Jew?" 

So do 1.1 wonder very much. Just as when Christianity tells me that I must 
not deny my religion even to save myself from death by torture, I wonder very 
much what I should do when it came to the point. I am not trying to tell you 
in this book what I could do — I can do precious little — I am telling you what 
Christianity is. I did not invent it. And there, right in the middle of it, I find 
"Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us." There is no slight- 
est suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms. It is made 
perfectly dear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven. There are no 
two ways about it. What are we to do? 

It is going to be hard enough, anyway, but I think there are two things we 
can do to make it easier. When you start mathematics you do not begin with 
the calculus; you begin with simple addition. In the same way, if we really 
want (but all depends on really wanting) to learn how to forgive, perhaps we 
had better start with something easier than the Gestapo. One might start with 
forgiving one's husband or wife, or parents or children, or the nearest N.C.O., 
for something they have done or said in the last week. That will probably keep 
us busy for the moment. And secondly, we might try to understand exactly 
what loving your neighbour as yourself means. I have to love him as I love 
myself. Well, how exactly do I love myself? 

Now that I come to think of it, I have not exactly got a feeling of fondness 
or affection for myself, and 1 do not even always enjoy my own society. So ap- 
parently "Love your neighbour" does not mean "feel fond of him" or "find him 



attractive." I ought to have seen that before, because, of course, you cannot 
feel fond of a person by trying. Do 1 think well of myself, think myself a nice 
chap? Well, I am afraid I sometimes do (and those are, no doubt, my worst 
moments) but that is not why I love myself. In faet it, is the other way round: 
my self-love makes me think myself nice, but thinking myself nice is not why 
I love myself. So loving my enemies does not apparently mean thinking them 
nice either. That is an enormous relief. For a good many people imagine that 
forgiving your enemies means making out that they are really not such bad 
fellows atter all, when it is quite plain that they are. Go a step further. In my 
most clear-sighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I 
know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I have done 
with horror and loathing. So apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some 
of the things my enemies do. Now that I come to think of it, I remember 
Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad mans actions, 
but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner. 

For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinetion: how 
could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it oc- 
curred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my 
life — namely myself. However mueh I might dislike my own cowardice or 
conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest 
difficulty about it. In faet the very reason why I hated the things was that I 
loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the 
sort of man who did those things. Consequently, Christianity does not want 
us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We 
ought to hate them. Not one word of what we have said about them needs to 
be unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate 
things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, 
and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere, he 
can be cured and made human again. 

The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the 
paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might 
not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one's first feeling, 
"Thank God, even they aren't quite so bad as that," or is it a feeling of disap- 
pointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer 
pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then 
it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will 
make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a lit- 
tle blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as 
black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing 
everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not 
be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred. 

Now a step further. Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him? No, 
for loving myself does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punish- 



ment — even to death. If one had committed a murder, the right Christian 
thing to do would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged. It is, 
therefore, in my opinion, perfectly right for a Christian judge to sentence a 
man to death or a Christian soldier to kill an enemy. I always have thought 
so, ever since I became a Christian, and long before the war, and I still think 
so now that we are at peace. It is no good quoting "Thou shalt not kill." Ihere 
are two Greek words: the ordinary word to kill and the word to murder. 
And when Christ quotes that commandment He uses the murder one in all 
three accounts, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And I am told there is the same 
distinction in Hebrew. All killing is not murder any more than all sexual 
intercourse is adultery. When soldiers came to St. John the Baptist asking 
what to do, he never remotely suggested that they ought to leave the army: 
nor did Christ when He met a Roman sergeant-major — what they called a 
centurion. The idea of the knight — the Christian in arms for the defence of 
a good cause — is one of the great Christian ideas. War is a dreadful thing, 
and I can respect an honest pacifist, though I think he is entirely mistaken. 
What I cannot understand is this sort of semipacifism you get nowadays 
which gives people the idea that though you have to fight, you ought to do it 
with a long face and as if you were ashamed of it. It is that feeling that robs 
lots of magnificent young Christians in the Services of something they have 
a right to, something which is the natural accompaniment of courage — a 
kind of gaity and wholeheartedness. 

I have often thought to myself how it would have been if, when I served in 
the first world war, I and some young German had killed each other simulta- 
neously and found ourselves together a moment after death. I cannot imagine 
that either of us would have felt any resentment or even any embarrassment. 
I think we might have laughed over it. 

I imagine somebody will say, "Well, if one is allowed to condemn the ene- 
my's acts, and punish him, and kill him, what difference is left between Chris¬ 
tian morality and the ordinary view?" All the difference in the world. Remem- 
ber, we Christians think man lives for ever. Therefore, what really matters is 
those little marks or twists on the central, inside part of the soul which are 
going to turn it, in the long run, into a heavenly or a hellish creature. We may 
kill if necessary, but we must not hate and enjoy hating. We may punish if 
necessary, but we must not enjoy it. In other words, something inside us, the 
feeling of resentment, the feeling that wants to get one's own back, must be 
simply killed. I do not mean that anyone can decide this moment that he will 
never feel it any more. That is not how things happen. I mean that every time 
it bobs its head up, day after day, year after year, all our lives long, we must hit 
it on the head. It is hard work, but the attempt is not impossible. Even while 
we kill and punish we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about our¬ 
selves — to wish that he were not bad. to hope that he may, in this world or 
another, be cured: in faet, to wish his good. That is what is meant in the Bible 



by loving him: wishing his good, jot feeling fond of him nor saving he is nice 
when he is not. 

I admit that this means loving people who have nothing lovable about them. 
But then, has oneself anything lovable about it? You love it simply because it 
is yourself, God intends us to love all selves in the same way and for the same 
reason: but He has given us the sum ready worked out on our own case to 
show us how it works. We have then to go on and apply the rule to all the other 
selves. Perhaps it makes it easier if we remember that that is how He loves us. 
Not for any nice, attractive qualities we think we have, but just because we are 
the things called selves. For really there is nothing else in us to love: creatures 
like us who actually find hatred such a pleasure that to give it up is like giving 
up beer or tobacco.... 


oday I come to that part of Christian morals where they differ most 

sharply from all other morals. There is one vice of which no man in 

.X. the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees 
it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever 
imagine that they are guilty themselves. I have heard people admit that they 
are bad-tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about giris or drink, or 
even that they are cowards. I do not think I have ever heard anyone who was 
not a Christian accuse himself of this vice. And at the same time I have very 
seldom met anyone, who was not a Christian, who showed the slightest mercy 
to it in others. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no 
fault which We are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have 
it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. 

The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite 
to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility. You may remember, when I was 
talking about sexual morality, I warned you that the centre of Christian mor¬ 
als did not lie there. Well, now, we have come to the centre. According to 
Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, an¬ 
ger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was 
through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: 
it is the complete anti-God State of mind. 

Does this seem to you exaggerated? If so, think it over. I pointed out a mo¬ 
ment ago that the more pride one had, the more one disliked pride in others. 
In faet, if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask 
yourself, "How mueh do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to 
take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?" The 
point it that each persons pride is in competition with every one else's pride. 
It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at 



someone else being the big noise. Two of a trade never agree. Now what you 
want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive — is competitive by 
its very nature — while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by 
accident Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having 
more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or 
elever, or good-looking, but they are not They are proud of being richer, or 
eleverer, or better-looking than others. If every one else became equally rich, 
or elever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the 
comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once 
the element of competition has gone, pride has gone. That is why I say that 
Pride is essentially competitive in a way the other vices are not. The sexual 
impulse may drive two men into competition if they both want the same giri 
But that is only by accident; they might just as likely have wanted two different 
giris. But a proud man will take your giri from you, not because he wants her, 
but just to prove to himself that he is a better man than you. Greed may drive 
men into competition if there is not enough to go round; but the proud man, 
even when he has got more than he can possibly want, will try to get still more 
just to assert his power. Nearly all those evils in the world which people put 
down to greed or selfishness are really far more the result of Pride. 

Take it with money. Greed will certainly make a man want money, for the 
sake of a better house, better holidays, better things to eat and drink. But 
only up to a point What is it dial makes a man with £ 10,000 a year anxious 
to get £20,000 a year? It is not the greed for more pleasure. £ 10,000 will give 
all the luxuries that any man can really enjoy. It is Pride — the wish to be 
richer than some other rich man, and (still more) the wish for power. For, of 
course, power is what Pride really enjoys: there is nothing makes a man feel 
so superior to others as being able to move them about like toy soldiers. What 
makes a pretty giri spread misery wherever she goes by collecting admirers? 
Certainly not her sexual instinet: that kind of giri is quite often sexually frigid. 
It is Pride. What is it that makes a political leader or a whole nation go on and 
on, demanding more and more? Pride again. Pride is competitive by its very 
nature: that is why it goes on and on. If I am a proud man, then, as long as 
there is one man in the whole world more powerful, or richer, or eleverer than 
I, he is my rival and my enemy. 

The Christians are right: it is Pride which has been the chief cause of mis¬ 
ery in every nation and every family since the world began. Other vices may 
sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes 
and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But Pride always 
means enmity — it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, 
but enmity to God. 

In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeas- 
urably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that — and, therefore, 
know yourself as nothing in comparison — you do not know God at all. As 



long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking 
down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, 
you cannot see something that is above you. 

That raises a terrible question. How is it that people who are quite obviously 
eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very 
religious? I am afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary God. They 
theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phan- 
tom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and 
thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a pennyworth of 
imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound's worth of Pride towards 
their fellow-men. I suppose it was of those people Christ was thinking when 
He said that some would preach about Him and cast out devils in His name, 
only to be told at the end of the world that He had never known them. And 
any of us may at any moment be in this death-trap. Luckily, we have a test 
Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good — 
above all, that we are better than someone else — I think we may be sure that 
we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil The real test of being in 
the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see 
yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether. 

It is a terrible thing that the worst of all the vices can smuggie itself into the 
very centre of our religious life. But you can see why. The other, and less bad, 
vices come from the devil working on us through our animal nature. But this 
does not come through our animal nature at all It comes direct from Hell. It 
is purely spiritual: consequently it is far more subtle and deadly. For the same 
reason, Pride can often be used to beat down the simpler vices. Teachers, in 
faet, often appeal to a boy's Pride, or, as they call it, his self-respect, to make 
him behave decently: many a man has overcome cowardice, or lust, or ill-tem- 
per by learning to think that they are beneath his dignity — that is, by Pride. 
The devil laughs. He is perfeetly content to see you becoming chaste and brave 
and self-con trolled provided, all the time, he is setting up in you the Dictator- 
ship of Pride — just as he would be quite content to see your chilblains cured 
if he was allowed, in return, to give you cancer. For Pride is spiritual cancer: 
it eats up the very possibility oflove, or contentment, or even common sense. 

Before leaving this subject I must guard against some possible misunder - 

(1) Pleasure in being praised is not Pride. The child who is patted on the 
back for doing a lesson well, the woman whose beauty is praised by her lover, 
the saved soul to whom Christ says "Well done," are pleased and ought to be. 
For here the pleasure lies not in what you are but in the faet that you have 
pleased someone you wanted (and rightly wanted) to piease. The trouble be- 
gins when you pass from thinking, "I have pleased him; all is well," to think¬ 
ing, "What a fine person I must be to have done it." The more you delight in 
yourself and the less you delight in the praise, the worse you are becoming. 



When you delight wholly in yourself and do not care about the praise at all, 
you have reached the bottom. That is why vanity, though it is the sort of Pride 
which shows most on the surface, is really the least bad and most pardonable 
sort. The vain person wants praise, applause, admiration, too much and is 
always angling for it. It is a fault, but a childlike and even (in an odd way) a 
humble fault. It shows that you are not yet completely contented with your 
own admiration. You value other people enough to want them to look at you. 
You are, in faet, still human. The real black, diabolical Pride comes when you 
look down on others so much that you do not care what they think of you. 
Of course, it is very right, and often our duty, not to care what people think 
of us, if we do so for the right reason; namely, because we care so incompara- 
bly more what God thinks. But the Proud man has a different reason for not 
caring. He says "Why should I care for the applause of that rabble as if their 
opinion were worth anything? And even if their opinions were of value, am I 
the sort of man to blush with pleasure at a compliment like some chit of a giri 
at her first dance? No, I am an integrated, adult personality. All I have done 
has been done to satisfy my own ideals — or my artistic conscience — or the 
traditions of my family — or, in a word, because I'm That Kind of Chap. If the 
mob like it, let them. They're nothing to me." In this way real thoroughgoing 
Pride may act as a check on vanity; for, as I said a moment ago, the devil loves 
"curing" a small fault by giving you a great one. We must try not to be vain, 
but we must never call in our Pride to cure our vanity; better the frying-pan 
than the fire. 

(2) We say in English that a man is "proud" of his son, or his father, or his 
school, or regiment, and it may be asked whether "pride" in this sense is a sin. 
I think it depends on what, exaetly, we mean by "proud of." Very often, in such 
sentences, the phrase "is proud of" means "has a warm-hearted admiration 
for." Such an admiration is, of course, very far from being a sin. But it might, 
perhaps, mean that the person in question gives himself airs on the ground 
of his distinguished father, or because he belongs to a famous regiment. This 
would, clearly, be a fault; but even then, it would be better than being proud 
simply of himself. To love and admire anything outside yourself is to take one 
step away from utter spiritual ruin; though we shall not be well so long as we 
love and admire anything more than we love and admire God. 

(3) We must not think Pride is something God forbids because He is of- 
fended at it, or that Humility is something He demands as due to His own dig- 
nity — as if God Himself was proud. He is not in the least worried about His 
dignity. The point is, He wants you to know Him; wants to give you Himself. 
And He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any 
kind of touch with Him you will, in faet, be humble — delightedly humble, 
feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense 
about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your 
life. He is trying to make you humble in order to make this moment possible: 



trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly, fancy-dress in which we have all got our¬ 
selves up and are strutting about like the little idiots we are. I wish I had got a 
bit further with humility myself: if I had, I could probably tell you more about 
the relief, the comfort, of taking the fancy-dress off — getting rid of the false 
self, with all its "Look at me" and "Aren't I a good boy?" and all its posing and 
posturing. To get even near it, even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water 
to a man in a desert. 

(4) Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what 
most people call "humble" nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy 
person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all 
you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who 
took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be 
because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so eas- 
ily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about 
himself at all. 

If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. 
The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, 
nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it 
means you are very conceited indeed. 


I said in an earlier chapter that there were four "Cardinal" virtues and three 
"Theological" virtues. The three Theological ones are Faith, Hope, and 
Charity. Faith is going to be dealt with in the last two chapters. Charity was 
partly dealt with in Chapter 7, but there I concentrated on that part of Charity 
which is called Forgiveness. I now want to add a little more. 

First, as to the meaning of the word. "Charity" now means simply what used 
to be called "alms" — that is, giving to the poor. Originally it had a much wid- 
er meaning. (You can see how it got the modern sense. If a man has "charity," 
giving to the poor is one of the most obvious things he does, and so people 
came to talk as if that were the whole of charity. In the same way, "rhyme" is 
the most obvious thing about poetry, and so people come to mean by "po¬ 
etry" simply rhyme and nothing more.) Charity means "Love, in the Christian 
sense." But love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a State 
not of the feelings but of the will; that State of the will which we have naturally 
about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people. 

I pointed out in the chapter on Forgiveness that our love for ourselves does 
not mean that we like ourselves. It means that we wish our own good. In the 
same way Christian Love (or Charity) for our neighbours is quite a different 
thing from liking or affection. We "like" or are "fond of" some people, and not 
of others. It is important to understand that this natural "liking" is neither a 



sin nor a virtue, any more than your likes and dislikes in food are a sin or a 
virtue. It is just a faet But, of course, what we do about it is either sinful or 

Natural liking or affeetion for people makes it easier to be "charitable" to- 
wards them. It is, therefore, normally a duty to encourage our affeetions — to 
"like" people as mueh as we can (just as it is often our duty to encourage our 
liking for exercise or wholesome food) — not because this liking is itself the 
virtue of charity, but because it is a help to it On the other hånd, it is also nec- 
essary to keep a very sharp look-out for fear our liking for some one person 
makes us uncharitable, or even unfair, to someone else. Ihere are even cases 
where our liking conflicts with our charity towards the person we like. For 
example, a doting mother may be tempted by natural affeetion to "spoil" her 
child; that is, to gratify her own affeetionate impulses at the expense of the 
child's real happiness later on. 

But though natural likings should normally be encouraged, it would be 
quite wrong to think that the way to become charitable is to sit trying to 
manufacture affeetionate feelings. Some people are "cold" by temperament; 
that may be a misfortune for them, but it is no more a sin than having a bad 
digestion is a sin; and it does not cut them out from the chance, or excuse 
them from the duty, of learning charity. The rule for all of us is perfeetly sim¬ 
ple. Do not waste time bothering whether you Tove" your neighbour; act as 
if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you 
are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. 
If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. 
If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less. There is, 
indeed, one exception. If you do him a good turn, not to piease God and obey 
the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to 
put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his "gratitude," you will 
probably be disappointed. (People are not fools: they have a very quick eye 
for anything like showing off, or patronage.) But whenever we do good to 
another self, just because it is a self, made (like us) by God, and desiring its 
own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more 
or, at least, to dislike it less. 

Consequently, though Christian charity sounds a very cold thing to people 
whose heads are full of sentimentality, and though it is quite distinet from 
affeetion, yet it leads to affeetion. The difference between a Christian and a 
worldly man is not that the worldly man has only affeetions or "likings" and 
the Christian has only "charity." The worldly man treats certain people kindly 
because he "likes" them: the Christian, trying to treat every one kindly, finds 
himself liking more and more people as he goes on — including people he 
could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning. 

This same spiritual law works terribly in the opposite direction. The Ger¬ 
mans, perhaps, at first ill-treated the Jews because they hated them: after- 



wards they hated them much more because they had ill-treated them. The 
more cruel you are, the more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more 
cruel you will become — and so on in a vicious circle for ever. 

Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the lit- 
tle decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The 
smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few 
months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. 
An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge 
or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack 
otherwise impossible. 

Some writers use the word charity to describe not only Christian love be- 
tween human beings, but also Gods love for man and mans love for God. 
About the second of these two, people are often worried. They are told they 
ought to love God. They cannot find any such feeling in themselves. What 
are they to do? The answer is the same as before. Act as if you did. Do not sit 
trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, "If I were sure that I loved God, 
what would I do?" When you have found the answer, go and do it. 

On the whole, Gods love for us is a much safer subject to think about than 
our love for Him. Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we 
could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. Christian Love, ei- 
ther towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will. If we are trying to 
do His will we are obeying the commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy 
God." He will give us feelings of love if He pleases. We cannot create them 
for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right. But the great thing 
to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does 
not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite 
relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever 
cost to us, at whatever cost to Him. 

10. HOPE 

H ope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual 
looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people 
think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things 
a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present 
world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did 
most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next The 
Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, 
the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who 
abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their 
minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased 
to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim 



at Heaven and you will get earth "thrown in": aim at earth and you will get 
neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in 
other matters. Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one 
of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there 
is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health provided you 
want other things more — food, games, work, fun, open air. In the same way, 
we shall never save civilisation as long as civilisation is our main object. We 
must learn to want something else even more. 

Most of us find it very difhcult to want "Heaven" at all — except in so far 
as "Heaven" means meeting again our friends who have died. One reason for 
this difficulty is that we have not been trained: our whole education tends to 
fix our minds on this world. Another reason is that when the real want for 
Heaven is present in us, we do not recognise it Most people, if they had really 
learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and 
want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts 
of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep 
their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or 
first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites 
us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. 
I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful mar- 
riages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. 
There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which 
just fades away in the reality. I think everyone knows what I mean. The wife 
may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and 
chemistry may be a very interesting job: but something has evaded us. Now 
there are two wrong ways of dealing with this faet, and one right one. 

(1) The Fool's Way. — He puts the blame on the things themselves. He goes 
on all his life thinking that if only he tried another woman, or went for a more 
expensive holiday, or whatever it is, then, this time, he really would catch the 
mysterious something we are all after. Most of the bored, discontented, rich 
people in the world are of this type. They spend their whole lives trotting from 
woman to woman (through the divorce courts), from continent to continent, 
from hobby to hobby, always thinking that the latest is "the Real Ihing" at last, 
and always disappointed. 

(2) The Way of the Disillusioned "Sensible Man." — He soon decides that 
the whole thing was moonshine. "Of course," he says, "one feels like that when 
one's young. But by the time you get to my age you've given up chasing the 
rainbow's end." And so he setties down and learns not to expect too mueh 
and represses the part of himself which used, as he would say, "to cry for the 
moon." This is, of course, a mueh better way than the first, and makes a man 
mueh happier, and less of a nuisance to society. It tends to make him a prig (he 
is apt to be rather superior towards what he calls "adolescents"), but, on the 
whole, he rubs along fairly comfortably. It would be the best line we could take 



if man did not live for ever. But supposing infinite happiness really is there, 
waiting for us? Supposing one really can reach the rainbow's end? In that case 
it would be a pity to find out too late (a moment after death) that by our sup- 
posed "common sense" we had stifled in ourselves the faculty of enjoying it. 

(3) The Christian Way. — The Christian says, "Creatures are not born with 
desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger well, 
there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such 
a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If 
I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the 
most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of 
my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. 
Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, 
to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hånd, never 
to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, 
never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind 
of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true 
country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed 
under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that 
other country and to help others to do the same." 

There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the 
Christian hope of "Heaven" ridiculous by saying they do not want "to spend 
eternity playing harps." The answer to such people is that if they cannot un¬ 
derstand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them. All 
the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely sym- 
bolical attempt to express the inexpressible. Musical instruments are men- 
tioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in the 
present life which most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity. Crowns are 
mentioned to suggest the faet that those who are united with God in eternity 
share His splendour and power and joy. Gold is mentioned to suggest the 
timelessness of Heaven (gold does not rust) and the preciousness of it People 
who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us 
to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs. 

11. FAITH 

I must talk in this chapter about what the Christians call Faith. Roughly 
speaking, the word Faith seems to be used by Christians in two senses 
or on two levels, and I will take them in turn. In the first sense it means 
simply Belief — accepting or regarding as true the doctrines of Christian- 
ity. That is fairly simple. But what does puzzle people — at least it used to 
puzzle me — is the faet that Christians regard faith in this sense as a virtue, 
I used to ask how on earth it can be a virtue — what is there moral or im- 



moral about believing or not believing a set of statements? Obviously, I used 
to say, a sane man accepts or rejects any statement, not because he wants or 
does not want to, but because the evidence seems to him good or bad. If he 
were mistaken about the goodness or badness of the evidence that would 
not mean he was a bad man, but only that he was not very elever. And if he 
thought the evidence bad but tried to force himself to believe in spite of it, 
that would be merely stupid. 

Well, I think I still take that view. But what I did not see then — and a good 
many people do not see still — was this. I was assuming that if the human 
mind once accepts a thing as true it will automatically go on regarding it as 
true, until some real reason for reconsidering it turns up. In faet, I was assum¬ 
ing that the human mind is completely ruled by reason. But that is not so. For 
example, my reason is perfeetly convinced by good evidence that anaesthetics 
do not smother me and that properly trained surgeons do not start operat¬ 
ing until I am unconscious. But that does not alter the faet that when they 
have me down on the table and clap their horrible mask over my face, a mere 
childish panic begins inside me. I start thinking I am going to choke, and I 
am afraid they will start cutting me up before I am properly under. In other 
words, I lose my faith in anaesthetics. It is not reason that is taking away my 
faith: on the contrary, my faith is based on reason. It is my imagination and 
emotions. The battie is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and 
imagination on the other. 

When you think of it you will see lots of instances of this. A man knows, 
on perfeetly good evidence, that a pretty giri of his acquaintance is a har and 
cannot keep a secret and ought not to be trusted; but when he finds himself 
with her his mind loses its faith in that bit of knowledge and he starts think¬ 
ing, "Perhaps she'll be different this time," and once more makes a fool of 
himself and tells her something he ought not to have told her. His senses and 
emotions have destroyed his faith in what he really knows to be true. Or take 
a boy learning to swim. His reason knows perfeetly well that an unsupported 
human body will not necessarily sink in water: he has seen dozens of people 
float and swim. But the whole question is whether he will be able to go on 
believing this when the instructor takes away his hånd and leaves him unsup¬ 
ported in the water — or whether he will suddenly cease to believe it and get 
in a fright and go down. 

Now just the same thing happens about Christianity. I am not asking any- 
one to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of the 
evidence is against it. That is not the point at which Faith comes in. But sup- 
posing a mans reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it. I 
can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There 
will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living 
among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions 
will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief. Or else there will come 



a moment when he wants a woman, or wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased 
with himself, or sees a chance of making a little money in some way that is not 
perfectly fair: some moment, in faet, at which it would be very convenient if 
Christianity were not true. And once again his wishes and desires will carry 
out a blitz. I am not talking of moments at which any real new reasons against 
Christianity turn up. Those have to be faced and that is a different matter. I am 
talking about moments where a mere mood rises up against it. 

Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of 
holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing 
moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that 
by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole 
thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which 
Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against 
your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary 
virtue: unless you teach your moods "where they get off," you can never be 
either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering 
to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the State of its 
digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith. 

The first step is to recognise the faet that your moods change. The next is to 
make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main 
doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. 
That is why daily prayers and religious reading and church going are neces¬ 
sary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what 
we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in 
the mind. It must be fed. And as a matter of faet, if you examined a hundred 
people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them 
would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not 
most people simply drift away? 

Now I must turn to Faith in the second or higher sense: and this is the 
most difficult thing I have tackled yet. I want to approach it by going back to 
the subject of Humility. You may remember I said that the first step towards 
humility was to realise that one is proud. I want to add now that the next step 
is to make some serious attempt to practise the Christian virtues. A week is 
not enough. Things offen go swimmingly for the first week. Try six weeks. By 
that time, having, as far as one can see, fallen back completely or even fallen 
lower than the point one began from, one will have discovered some truths 
about oneself. No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be 
good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation 
means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know 
how strong it is. Affer all, you find out the strength of the German army by 
fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by 
trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to tempta¬ 
tion after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an 



hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about bad- 
ness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out 
the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, 
because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the 
only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete 
realist. Very well, then. The main thing we learn from a serious attempt to 
practise the Christian virtues is that we fail. If there was any idea that God 
had set us a sort of exam, and that we might get good marks by deserving 
them, that has to be wiped out. If there was any idea of a sort of bargain — 
any idea that we could perform our side of the contract and thus put God in 
our debts so that it was up to Him, in mere justice, to perform His side — 
that has to be wiped out. 

I think every one who has some vague belief in God, until he becomes a 
Christian, has the idea of an exam, or of a bargain in his mind. The first result 
of real Christianity is to blow that idea into bits. When they find it blown into 
bits, some people think this means that Christianity is a failure and give up. 
They seem to imagine that God is very simple-minded! In faet, of course, He 
knows all about this. One of the very things Christianity was designed to do 
was to blow this idea to bits. God has been waiting for the moment at which 
you discover that there is no question of earning a pass mark in this exam, or 
putting Him in your debt. 

Iben comes another discovery. Every faculty you have, your power of think- 
ing or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. 
If you devoted every moment of your whole life exelusively to His service you 
could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already. So that 
when we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God, I 
will tell you what it is really like. It is like a small child going to its father and 
saying, "Daddy, give me sixpence to buy you a birthday present." Of course, 
the father does, and he is pleased with the child's present. It is all very nice and 
proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on 
the transaction. When a man has made these two discoveries God can really 
get to work. It is after this that real life begins. The man is awake now. We can 
now go on to talk of Faith in the second sense. 

12. FAITH 

I want to start by saying something that I would like everyone to notice 
carefully. It is this. If this chapter means nothing to you, if it seems to be 
trying to answer questions you never asked, drop it at once. Do not bother 
about it at all. There are certain things in Christianity that can be understood 
from the outside, before you have become a Christian. But there are a great 
many things that cannot be understood until after you have gone a certain 



distance along the Christian road. These things are purely practical, though 
they do not look as if they were. They are directions for dealing with particular 
cross-roads and obstacles on the journey and they do not make sense until a 
man has reached those places. Whenever you find any statement in Christian 
writings which you can make nothing of, do not worry. Leave it alone. There 
will come a day, perhaps years later, when you suddenly see what it meant If 
one could understand it now, it would only do one harm. 

Of course all this tells against me as much as anyone else. The thing I am 
going to try to explain in this chapter may be ahead of me. I may be thinking 
I have got there when I have not. I can only ask instructed Christians to watch 
very carefully, and tell me when I go wrong; and others to take what I say with 
a grain of salt — as something offered, because it may be a help, not because I 
am certain that I am right. 

I am trying to talk about Faith in the second sense, the higher sense. I said 
last week that the question of Faith in this sense arises after a man has tried 
his level best to practise the Christian virtues, and found that he fails, and seen 
that even if he could he would only be giving back to God what was already 
Gods own. In other words, he discovers his bankruptcy. Now, once again, 
what God cares about is not exactly our actions. What he cares about is that 
we should be creatures of a certain kind or quality — the kind of creatures He 
intended us to be — creatures related to Himself in a certain way. I do not add 
"and related to one another in a certain way," because that is included: if you 
are right with Him you will inevitably be right with all your fellow-creatures, 
just as if all the spokes of a wheel are fitted rightly into the hub and the rim 
they are bound to be in the right positions to one another. And as long as a 
man is thinking of God as an examiner who has set him a sort of paper to 
do, or as the opposite party in a sort of bargain — as long as he is thinking 
of claims and counterclaims between himself and God — he is not yet in the 
right relation to Him. He is misunderstanding what he is and what God is. 
And he cannot get into the right relation until he has discovered the faet of 
our bankruptcy. 

When I say "discovered," I mean really discovered: not simply said it parrot - 
fashion. Of course, any child, if given a certain kind of religious education, 
will soon learn to say that we have nothing to offer to God that is not already 
His own and that we find ourselves failing to offer even that without keeping 
something back. But I am talking of really discovering this: really finding out 
by experience that it is true. 

Now we cannot, in that sense, discover our failure to keep Gods law except 
by trying our very hårdest (and then failing). Unless we really try, whatever we 
say there will always be at the back of our minds the idea that if we try harder 
next time we shall succeed in being completely good. Thus, in one sense, the 
road back to God is a road of moral effort, of trying harder and harder. But 
in another sense it is not trying that is ever going to bring us home. All this 



trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, "You 
must do this. I can't." Do not, I implore you, start asking yourselves, "Have I 
reached that moment?" Do not sit down and start watching your own mind 
to see if it is coming along. That puts a man quite on the wrong track. When 
the most important things in our life happen we quite often do not know, at 
the moment, what is going on. A man does not always say to himself, "Hullo! 
I'm growing up." It is often only when he looks back that he realises what has 
happened and recognises it as what people call "growing up." You can see it 
even in simple matters. A man who starts anxiously watching to see whether 
he is going to sleep is very likely to remain wide awake. As well, the thing I 
am talking of now may not happen to every one in a sudden flash — as it did 
to St Paul or Bunyan: it may be so gradual that no one could ever point to a 
particular hour or even a particular year. And what matters is the nature of the 
change in itself, not how we feel while it is happening. It is the change from 
being confident about our own efforts to the State in which we despair of do- 
ing anything for ourselves and leave it to God. 

I know the words "leave it to God" can be misunderstood, but they must 
stay for the moment. The sense in which a Christian leaves it to God is that 
he puts all his trust in Christ: trusts that Christ will somehow share with him 
the perfect human obedience which He carried out from His birth to His 
crucifixion: that Christ will make the man more like Himself and, in a sense, 
make good his deficiencies. In Christian language, He will share His "son- 
ship" with us, will make us, like Himself, "Sons of God": in Book IV I shall 
attempt to analyse the meaning of those words a little further. If you like to 
put it that way, Christ offers something for nothing: He even offers everything 
for nothing. In a sense, the whole Christian life consists in accepting that very 
remarkable offer. But the difficulty is to reach the point of recognising that all 
we have done and can do is nothing. What we should have liked would be for 
God to count our good points and ignore our bad ones. Again, in a sense, you 
may say that no temptation is ever overcome until we stop trying to overcome 
it — throw up the sponge. But then you could not "stop trying" in the right 
way and for the right reason until you had tried your very hårdest. And, in yet 
another sense, handing everything over to Christ does not, of course, mean 
that you stop trying. To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all that He 
says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not 
take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must 
follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried 
way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to 
save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but 
inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gieam of Heaven 
is already inside you. 

Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home 
is good actions, or Faith in Christ. I have no right really to speak on such a 



difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of 
scissors is most necessary. A serious moral effort is the only thing that will 
bring you to the point where you throw up the sponge. Faith in Christ is the 
only thing to save you from despair at that point: and out of that Faith in Him 
good actions must inevitably come. There are two parodies of the truth which 
different sets of Christians have, in the past, been accused by other Christians 
of believing: perhaps they may make the truth clearer. One set were accused 
of saying, "Good actions are all that matters. The best good action is charity. 
The best kind of charity is giving money. The best thing to give money to is the 
Church. So hånd us over £ 10,000 and we will see you through." The answer 
to that nonsense, of course, would be that good actions done for that motive, 
done with the idea that Heaven can be bought, would not be good actions at 
all, but only commercial speculations. The other set were accused of saying, 
"Faith is all that matters. Consequently, if you have faith, it doesn't matter 
what you do. Sin away, my lad, and have a good time and Christ will see that 
it makes no difference in the end." The answer to that nonsense is that, if what 
you call your "faith" in Christ does not involve taking the slightest notice of 
what He says, then it is not Faith at all — not faith or trust in Him, but only 
intellectual acceptance of some theory about Him. 

The Bible really seems to clinch the matter when it puts the two things to- 
gether into one amazing sentence. The hrst half is, "Work out your own salva- 
tion with fear and trembling" — which looks as if everything depended on us 
and our good actions: but the second half goes on, "For it is God who worketh 
in you" — which looks as if God did everything and we nothing. I am afraid 
that is the sort of thing we come up against in Christianity. I am puzzled, but 
I am not surprised. You see, we are now trying to understand, and to separate 
into water-tight compartments, what exactly God does and what man does 
when God and man are working together. And, of course, we begin by think- 
ing it is like two men working together, so that you could say, "He did this bit 
and I did that." But this way of thinking breaks down. God is not like that. He 
is inside you as well as outside: even if we could understand who did what, 
I do not think human language could properly express it. In the attempt to 
express it different Churches say different things. But you will find that even 
those who insist most strongly on the importance of good actions tell you you 
need Faith; and even those who insist most strongly on Faith tell you to do 
good actions. At any rate that is as far as I go. 

I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity 
seems at hrst to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and 
virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a 
glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things, except perhaps 
as a joke. Every one there is filled full with what we should call goodness as a 
mirror is filled with light But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it 
anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source 



from which it comes. But this is near the stage where the road passes over the 
rim of our world. No one's eyes can see very far beyond that: lots of people's 
eyes can see further than mine. 


Book IV 

Beyond Personality: Or First 
Steps in The Doctrine of The 



E veryone has warned me not to tell you what I am going to tell you in 
this last book. They all say "the ordinary reader does not want Theol- 
ogy; give him plain practical religion." I have rejected their advice. I do 
not think the ordinary reader is such a fool. Theology means "the science of 
God," and I think any man who wants to think about God at all would like to 
have the clearest and most accurate ideas about Him which are available. You 
are not children: why should you be treated like children? 

In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I re- 
member once when I had been giving a talk to the RA.F., an old, hard-bitten 
officer got up and said, "I've no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I'm a 
religious man too. I know there's a God. I've felt Him: out alone in the desert 
at night: the tremendous mystery. And that's just why I don't believe all your 
neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who's met the real 
thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!" 

Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man. I think he had probably had a 
real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experi- 
ence to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something 
real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the 
Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he 
also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from 
real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the point. The map is 
admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remem- 
ber about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of 
people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind 
it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; 
only, while yours would be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those dif- 
ferent experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, 
the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the 
beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map 
is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America. 

Now, Theology is like the map. Merely learning and thinking about the 
Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the 
sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are 
only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of 
people who really were in touch with God-experiences compared with which 
any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very 
elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, 
you must use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may 
have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads 
nowhere. There is nothing to do about it In faet, that is just why a vague reli¬ 
gion — all about feeling God in nature, and so on — is so attractive. It is all 


thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not 
get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get 
eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither 
will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you 
be very safe if you go to sea without a map. 

In other words, Theology is practical: especially now. In the old days, when 
there was less education and discussion, perhaps it was possible to get on with 
a very few simple ideas about God. But it is not so now. Everyone reads, eve- 
ryone hears things discussed. Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, 
that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you 
have a lot of wrong ones — bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many 
of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today, are simply 
the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected. To believe 
in the popular religion of modern England is retrogression — like believing 
the earth is flat. 

For when you get down to it, is not the popular idea of Christianity simply 
this: that Jesus Christ was a great moral teacher and that if only we took his 
advice we might be able to establish a better social order and avoid another 
war? Now, mind you, that is quite true. But it tells you much less than the 
whole truth about Christianity and it has no practical importance at all. 

It is quite true that if we took Christ's advice we should soon be living in a 
happier world. You need not even go as far as Christ. If we did all that Plat o or 
Aristotle or Confucius told us, we should get on a great deal better than we do. 
And so what? We never have followed the advice of the great teachers. Why 
are we likely to begin now? Why are we more likely to follow Christ than any 
of the others? Because he is the hest moral teacher? But that makes it even less 
likely that we shall follow him. If we cannot take the elementary lessons, is it 
likely we are going to take the most advanced one? If Christianity only means 
one more bit of good advice, then Christianity is of no importance. There has 
been no lack of good advice for the last four thousand years. A bit more makes 
no difference. 

But as soon as you look at any real Christian writings, you find that they 
are talking about something quite different from this popular religion. They 
say that Christ is the Son of God (whatever that means). They say that those 
who give Him their confidence can also become Sons of God (whatever that 
means). They say that His death saved us from our sins (whatever that means). 

There is no good complaining that these statements are difficult Christian¬ 
ity claims to be telling us about another world, about something behind the 
world we can touch and hear and see. You may think the claim false; but if it 
were true, what it tells us would be bound to be difficult — at least as difficult 
as modern Physics, and for the same reason. 

Now the point in Christianity which gives us the greatest shock is the state¬ 
ment that by attaching ourselves to Christ, we can "become Sons of God." 



One asks" Aren't we Sons of God already? S urely the fatherhood of God is one 
of the main Christian ideas?" Well, in a certain sense, no doubt we are sons 
of God already I mean, God has brought us into existence and loves us and 
looks after us, and in that way is like a father. But when the Bible talks of our 
"becoming" Sons of God, obviously it must mean something different. And 
that brings us up against the very centre of Theology. 

One of the creeds says that Christ is the Son of God "begotten, not created"; 
and it adds "begotten by his Father before all worlds." Will you piease get it 
quite clear that this has nothing to do with the faet that when Christ was born 
on earth as a man, that man was the son of a virgin? We are not now think- 
ing about the Virgin Birth. We are thinking about something that happened 
before Nature was created at all, before time began. "Before all worlds" Christ 
is begotten, not created. What does it mean? 

We don't use the words begetting or begotten mueh in modern English, 
but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget is to become the father 
of: to create is to make. And the difference is this. When you beget, you beget 
something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver 
begets little beavers and a hird begets eggs which turn into little hirds. But 
when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A hird 
makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set — or he may 
make something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a statue. If he is a 
elever enough carver he may make a statue which is very like a man indeed. 
But, of course, it is not a real man; it only looks like one. It cannot breathe or 
think. It is not alive. 

Now that is the first thing to get clear. What God begets is God; just as what 
man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is 
not man. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is. They 
may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. 
They are more like statues or pictures of God. 

A statue has the shape of a man but it is not alive. In the same way, man has 
(in a sense I am going to explain) the "shape" or likeness of God, but he has 
not got the kind of life God has. Let us take the first point (man's resemblance 
to God) first. Everything God has made has some likeness to Himself. Space 
is like Him in its hugeness: not that the greatness of space is the same kind 
of greatness as Gods, but it is a sort of symbol of it, or a translation of it into 
non-spiritual terms. Matter is like God in having energy: though, again, of 
course, physical energy is a different kind of thing from the power of God. 
The vegetable world is like Him because it is alive, and He is the "living God." 
But life, in this biological sense, is not the same as the life there is in God: it 
is only a kind of symbol or shadow of it. When we come on to the animals, 
we find other kinds of resemblance in addition to biological life. The intense 
activity and fertility of the insects, for example, is a first dim resemblance to 
the unceasing activity and the creativeness of God. In the higher mammals we 



get the beginnings of instinctive affection. That is not the same thing as the 
love that exists in God: but it is like it — rather in the way that a picture drawn 
on a flat piece of paper can nevertheless be "like" a landscape. When we come 
to man, the highest of the animals, we get the completest resemblance to God 
which we know of. (There may be creatures in other worlds who are more like 
God than man is, but we do not know about them.) Man not only lives, but 
loves and reasons: biological life reaches its highest known level in him. 

But what man, in his natural condition, has not got, is Spiritual life — the 
higher and different sort of life that exists in God. We use the same word 
life for both: but if you thought that both must therefore be the same sort 
of thing, that would be like thinking that the "greatness" of space and the 
"greatness" of God were the same sort of greatness. In reality, the difference 
between Biological life and spiritual life is so important that I am going to 
give them two distinet names. The Biological sort which comes to us through 
Nature, and which (like everything else in Nature) is always tending to run 
down and decay so that it can only be kept up by incessant subsidies from 
Nature in the form of air, water, food, etc., is Bios. The Spiritual life which is 
in God from all eternity, and which made the whole natural universe, is Zoe. 
Bios has, to be sure, a certain shadowy or symbolic resemblance to Zoe-. but 
only the sort of resemblance there is between a photo and a place, or a statue 
and a man. A man who changed from having Bios to having Zoe would have 
gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved 
stone to being a real man. 

And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great sculp- 
tor's shop. We are the statues and there is a rumour going round the shop that 
some of us are some day going to come to life. 


he last chapter was about the difference between begetting and making. 

A man begets a child, but he only makes a statue. God begets Christ 

.X. but He only makes men. But by saying that, I have illustrated only one 
point about God, namely, that what God the Father begets is God, something 
of the same kind as Himself. In that way it is like a human father begetting a 
human son. But not quite like it. So I must try to explain a little more. 

A good many people nowadays say, "I believe in a God, but not in a per¬ 
sonal God." They feel that the mysterious something which is behind all other 
things must be more than a person. Now the Christians quite agree. But the 
Christians are the only people who offer any idea of what a being that is be- 
yond personality could be like. All the other people, though they say that God 
is beyond personality, really think of Him as something impersonal: that is, 
as something less than personal. If you are looking for something super-per- 



sonal, something more than a person, then it is not a question of choosing 
between the Christian idea and the other ideas. The Christian idea is the only 
one on the market. 

Again, some people think that atter this life, or perhaps atter several lives, 
human souls will be "absorbed" into God. But when they try to explain what 
they mean, they seem to be thinking of our being absorbed into God as one 
material thing is absorbed into another. They say it is like a drop of water slip¬ 
ping into the sea. But of course that is the end of the drop. If that is what hap ¬ 
pens to us, then being absorbed is the same as ceasing to exist. It is only the 
Christians who have any idea of how human souls can be taken into the life 
of God and yet remain themselves — in faet, be very mueh more themselves 
than they were before. 

I warned you that Theology is practical. The whole purpose for which we 
exist is to be thus taken into the life of God. Wrong ideas about what that life 
is, will make it harder. And now, for a few minutes, I must ask you to follow 
rather carefully. 

You know that in space you can move in three ways — to left or right, back- 
wards or forwards, up or down. Every direction is either one of these three or 
a compromise between them. They are called the three Dimensions. Now no- 
tice this. If you are using only one dimension, you could draw only a straight 
line. If you are using two, you could draw a figure: say, a square. And a square 
is made up of four straight lines. Now a step further. If you have three dimen¬ 
sions, you can then build what we call a solid body, say, a cube — a thing like 
a dice or a lump of sugar. And a cube is made up of six squares. 

Do you see the point? A world of one dimension would be a straight line. 
In a two-dimensional world, you still get straight lines, but many lines make 
one figure. In a three-dimensional world, you still get figures but many figures 
make one solid body. In other words, as you advance to more real and more 
complicated levels, you do not leave behind you the things you found on the 
simpler levels: you still have them, but combined in new ways — in ways you 
could not imagine if you knew only the simpler levels. 

Now the Christian account of God involves just the same principle. The hu¬ 
man level is a simple and rather empty level. On the human level one person 
is one being, and any two persons are two separate beings — just as, in two 
dimensions (say on a flat sheet of paper) one square is one figure, and any two 
squares are two separate figures. On the Divine level you still find personali- 
ties; but up there you find them combined in new ways which we, who do 
not live on that level, cannot imagine. In Gods dimension, so to speak, you 
find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is 
six squares while remaining one cube. Of course we cannot fully conceive a 
Being like that: just as, if we were so made that we perceived only two dimen¬ 
sions in space we could never properly imagine a cube. But we can get a sort 
of faint notion of it. And when we do, we are then, for the first time in our 



lives, getting some positive idea, however faint, of something super-personal- 
something more than a person. It is something we could never have guessed, 
and yet, once we have been told, one almost feels one ought to have been able 
to guess it because it fits in so well with all the things we know already. 

You may ask, "If we cannot imagine a three-personal Being, what is the 
good of talking about Him?" Well, there isn't any good talking about Him. The 
thing that matters is being actually drawn into that three-personal life, and 
that may begin any time — tonight, if you like. 

What I mean is this. An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his 
prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he 
knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, in¬ 
side him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through 
Christ, the Man who was God — that Christ is standing beside him, helping 
him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to 
which he is praying — the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing 
inside him which is pushing him on — the motive power. God is also the 
road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole 
threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary 
little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers. The man is being 
caught up into the higher kind of life — what I called Zoe or spiritual life: he 
is being pulled into God, by God, while still remaining himself. 

And that is how Theology started. People already knew about God in a 
vague way. Then came a man who claimed to be God; and yet he was not the 
sort of man you could dismiss as a lunatic. He made them believe Him. They 
met Him again affer they had seen Him killed. And then, after they had been 
formed into a little society or community, they found God somehow inside 
them as well: directing them, making them able to do things they could not 
do before. And when they worked it all out they found they had arrived at the 
Christian definition of the three-personal God. 

This definition is not something we have made up; Theology is, in a sense, 
experimental knowledge. It is the simple religions that are the made-up ones. 
When I say it is an experimental science "in a sense," I mean that it is like the 
other experimental Sciences in some ways, but not in all. If you are a geologist 
studying rocks, you have to go and find the rocks. They will not come to you, 
and if you go to them they cannot run away. The initiative lies all on your side. 
They cannot either help or hinder. But suppose you are a zoologist and want 
to take photos of wild animals in their native haunts. That is a bit different 
from studying rocks. The wild animals will not come to you: but they can run 
away from you. Unless you keep very quiet, they will. There is beginning to be 
a tiny little trace of initiative on their side. 

Now a stage higher; suppose you want to get to know a human person. If 
he is determined not to let you, you will not get to know him. You have to 
win his confidence. In this case the initiative is equally divided — it takes two 



to make a friendship. 

When you come to knowing God, the initiative lies on His side. If He does 
not show Himself, nothing you can do will enable you to find Him. And, in 
faet, He shows mueh more of Himself to some people than to others — not 
because He has favourites, but because it is impossible for Him to show Him¬ 
self to a man whose whole mind and character are in the wrong condition. 
Just as sunlight, though it has no favourites, cannot be reflected in a dusty 
mirror as clearly as a clean one. 

You can put this another way by saying that while in other Sciences the 
instruments you use are things external to yourself (things like microscopes 
and telescopes), the instrument through which you see God is your whole 
self. And if a mans self is not kept clean and bright, his glimpse of God will 
be blurred — like the Moon seen through a dirty telescope. That is why hor¬ 
rible nations have horrible religions: they have been looking at God through 
a dirty lens. 

God can show Himself as He really is only to real men. And that means 
not simply to men who are individually good, but to men who are united 
together in a body, loving one another, helping one another, showing Him to 
one another. For that is what God meant humanity to be like; like players in 
one band, or organs in one body. 

Consequently, the one really adequate instrument for learning about God, 
is the whole Christian community, waiting for Him together. Christian broth- 
erhood is, so to speak, the technical equipment for this science — the labora- 
tory outfit That is why all these people who turn up every few years with some 
patent simplified religion of their own as a substitute for the Christian tradi¬ 
tion are really wasting time. Like a man who has no instrument but an old 
parr of field glasses setting out to put all the real astronomers right. He may 
be a elever chap — he may be eleverer than some of the real astronomers, but 
he is not giving himself a chance. And two years later everyone has forgotten 
all about him, but the real science is still going on. 

If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make 
it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are 
inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Faet. Of course any- 
one can be simple if he has no facts to bother about. 


I t is a very silly idea that in reading a book you must never "skip." All 
sensible people skip freely when they come to a chapter which they find 
is going to be no use to them. In this chapter I am going to talk about 
something which may be helpful to some readers, but which may seem to 
others merely an unnecessary complication. If you are one of the second sort 



of readers, then I advise you not to bother about this chapter at all but to turn 
on to the next. 

In the last chapter I had to touch on the subject of prayer, and while that is 
still fresh in your mind and my own, I should like to deal with a difficulty that 
some people find about the whole idea of prayer. A man put it to me by saying 
"I can believe in God all right, but what I cannot swallow is the idea of Him at- 
tending to several hundred million human beings who are all addressing Him 
at the same moment." And I have found that quite a lot of people feel this. 

Now, the first thing to notice is that the whole sting of it comes in the words 
at the same moment. Most of us can imagine God attending to any number of 
applicants if only they came one by one and He had an endless time to do it 
in. So what is really at the back of this difficulty is the idea of God having to fit 
too many things into one moment of time. 

Well that is of course what happens to us. Our life comes to us moment by 
moment One moment disappears before the next comes along: and there is 
room for very little in each. That is what Time is like. And of course you and 
I tend to take it for granted that this Time series — this arrangement of past, 
present and future — is not simply the way life comes to us but the way all 
things really exist We tend to assume that the whole universe and God Him- 
self are always moving on from past to future just as we do. But many learned 
men do not agree with that. It was the Theologians who first started the idea 
that some things are not in Time at all: later the Philosophers took it over: and 
now some of the scientists are doing the same. 

Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life does not consist of moments 
following one another. If a million people are praying to Him at ten-thirty 
tonight, He need not listen to them all in that one little snippet which we 
call ten-thirty. Ten-thirty-and every other moment from the beginning of the 
world — is always the Present for Him. If you like to put it that way, He has all 
eternity in which to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his 
plane crashes in flames. 

That is difficult, I know. Let me try to give something, not the same, but a bit 
like it. Suppose I am writing a novel. I write "Mary laid down her work; next 
moment came a knock at the door!" For Mary who has to live in the imagi- 
nary time of my story there is no interval between putting down the work and 
hearing the knock. But I, who am Marys maker, do not live in that imaginary 
time at all. Between writing the first half of that sentence and the second, I 
might sit down for three hours and think steadily about Mary. I could think 
about Mary as if she were the only character in the book and for as long as I 
pleased, and the hours I spent in doing so would not appear in Marys time 
(the time inside the story) at all. 

This is not a perfect illustration, of course. But it may give just a glimpse of 
what I believe to be the truth. God is not hurried along in the Time — stream 
of this universe any more than an author is hurried along in the imaginary 



time of his own novel He has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He 
does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as 
if you were the only being He had ever created. When Christ died, He died for 
you individually just as much as if you had been the only man in the world. 

The way in which my illustration breaks down is this. In it the author gets 
out of one Time-series (that of the novel) only by going into another Time¬ 
series (the real one). But God, I believe, does not live in a Time-series at all. 
His life is not dribbled out moment by moment like ours: with Him it is, so to 
speak, still 1920 and already 1960. For His life is Himself. 

If you picture Time as a straight line along which we have to travel, then you 
must picture God as the whole page on which the line is drawn. We come to 
the parts of the line one by one: we have to leave A behind before we get to B, 
and cannot reach C until we leave B behind. God, from above or outside or all 
round, contains the whole line, and sees it all. 

The idea is worth trying to grasp because it removes some apparent diffi- 
culties in Christianity. Before I became a Christian one of my objections was 
as follows. The Christians said that the eternal God who is everywhere and 
keeps the whole universe going, once became a human being. Well then, said 
I, how did the whole universe keep going while He was a baby, or while He 
was asleep? How could He at the same time be God who knows everything 
and also a man asking his disciples "Who touched me?" You will notice that 
the sting lay in the time words: "While He was a baby" — "How could He at 
the same time 7 ." In other words I was assuming that Christ's life as God was in 
time, and that His life as the man Jesus in Palestine was a shorter period taken 
out of that time — just as my service in the army was a shorter period taken 
out of my total life. And that is how most of us perhaps tend to think about it. 
We picture God living through a period when His human life was still in the 
future: then coming to a period when it was present: then going on to a period 
when He could look back on it as something in the past. But probably these 
ideas correspond to nothing in the actual facts. You cannot fit Christ's earthly 
life in Palestine into any time-relations with His life as God beyond all space 
and time. It is really, I suggest, a timeless truth about God that human nature, 
and the human experience of weakness and sleep and ignorance, are some- 
how included in His whole divine life. This human life in God is from our 
point of view a particular period in the history of our world (from the year 
A.D. one till the Crucifbdon). We therefore imagine it is also a period in the 
history of Gods own existence. But God has no history. He is too completely 
and utterly real to have one. For, of course, to have a history means losing part 
of your reality (because it had already slipped away into the past) and not yet 
having another part (because it is still in the future): in faet having nothing 
but the tiny little present, which has gone before you can speak about it. God 
forbid we should think God was like that. Even we may hope not to be always 
rationed in that way. 



Another difficulty we get if we believe God to be in time is this. Everyone 
who believes in God at all believes that He knows what you and I are going to 
do tomorrow. But if He knows I am going to do so-and-so, how can I be free 
to do otherwise? Well, here once again, the difficulty comes from thinking 
that God is progressing along the Time-line like us: the only difference being 
that He can see ahead and we cannot. Well, if that were true, if God foresaw 
our acts, it would be very hard to understand how we could be free not to 
do them. But suppose God is outside and above the Time-line. In that case, 
what we call "tomorrow" is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call 
"today." All the days are "Now" for Him. He does not remember you doing 
things yesterday; He simply sees you doing them, because, though you have 
lost yesterday. He has not. He does not "foresee" you doing things tomorrow; 
He simply sees you doing them: because, though tomorrow is not yet there for 
you, it is for Him. You never supposed that your actions at this moment were 
any less free because God knows what you are doing. Well, He knows your 
tomorrow's actions in just the same way — because He is already in tomor¬ 
row and can simply watch you. In a sense, He does not know your action till 
you have done it: but then the moment at which you have done it is already 
"Now" for Him. 

This idea has helped me a good deal. If it does not help you, leave it alone. 
It is a "Christian idea" in the sense that great and wise Christians have held it 
and there is nothing in it contrary to Christianity. But it is not in the Bible or 
any of the creeds. You can be a perfectly good Christian without accepting it, 
or indeed without thinking of the matter at all 


I begin this chapter by asking you to get a certain picture clear in your 
minds. Imagine two books lying on a table one on top of the other. Obvi- 
ously the bottom book is keeping the other one up — supporting it. It is 
because of the underneath book that the top one is resting, say, two inches 
from the surface of the table instead of touching the table. Let us call the un¬ 
derneath book A and the top one B. The position of A is causing the position 
of B. That is clear? Now let us imagine — it could not really happen, of course, 
but it will do for an illustration — let us imagine that both books have been 
in that position for ever and ever. In that case B's position would always have 
been resulting from A's position. But all the same, A's position would not have 
existed before B's position. In other words the result does not come after the 
cause. Of course, results usually do: you eat the cucumber first and have the 
indigestion afferwards. But it is not so with all causes, and results. You will see 
in a moment why I think this important. 

I said a few pages back that God is a Being which contains three Persons 



while remaining one Being, just as a cube contains six squares while remain- 
ing one body. But as soon as I begin trying to explain how these Persons are 
connected I have to use words which make it sound as if one of them was 
there before the others. The First Person is called the Father and the Second 
the Son. We say that the First begets or produces the second; we call it beget¬ 
ting, not making, because what He produces is of the same kind as Himself. In 
that way the word Father is the only word to use. But unfortunately it suggests 
that He is there first — just as a human father exists before his son. But that 
is not so. There is no before and atter about it. And that is why I have spent 
some time trying to make clear how one thing can be the source, or cause, or 
origin, of another without being there before it. The Son exists because the 
Father exists: but there never was a tune before the Father produced the Son. 

Perhaps the best way to think of it is this. I asked you just now to imagine 
those two books, and probably most of you did. That is, you made an act of 
imagination and as a result you had a mental picture. Quite obviously your 
act of imagining was the cause and the mental picture the result. But that 
does not mean that you first did the imagining and then got the picture. The 
moment you did it, the picture was there. Your will was keeping the picture 
before you all the time. Yet that act of will and the picture began at exactly 
the same moment and ended at the same moment. If there were a Being who 
had always existed and had always been imagining one thing, his act would 
always have been producing a mental picture; but the picture would be just 
as eternal as the act. 

In the same way we must think of the Son always, so to speak, streaming 
forth from the Father, like light from a lamp, or heat from a fire, or thoughts 
from a mind. He is the self-expression of the Father — what the Father has 
to say. And there never was a time when He was not saying it. But have you 
noticed what is happening? All these pictures of light or heat are making it 
sound as if the Father and Son were two things instead of two Persons. So 
that affer all, the New Testament picture of a Father and a Son turns out to 
be much more accurate than anything we try to substitute for it That is what 
always happens when you go away from the words of the Bible. It is quite 
right to go away from them for a moment in order to make some special 
point clear. But you must always go back. Naturally God knows how to de- 
scribe Himself much better than we know how to describe Him. He knows 
that Father and Son is more like the relation between the First and Second 
Persons than anything else we can think of. Much the most important thing 
to know is that it is a relation oflove. The Father delights in His Son; the Son 
looks up to His Father. 

Before going on, notice the practical importance of this. All sorts of peo- 
ple are fond of repeating the Christian statement that "God is love," But they 
seem not to notice that the words "God is love" have no real meaning unless 
God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for 



another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, 
He was not love. Of course, what these people mean when they say that God 
is love is often something quite different: they really mean "Love is God." They 
really mean that our feelings of love, however and wherever they arise, and 
whatever results they produce, are to be treated with great respect. Perhaps 
they are: but that is something quite different from what Christians mean by 
the statement "God is love." They believe that the living, dynamic activity of 
love has been going on in God for ever and has created everything else. 

And that, by the way, is perhaps the most important difference between 
Christianity and all other religions: that in Christianity God is not a static 
thing — not even a person — but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost 
a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance. 
The union between the Father and Son is such a live concrete thing that this 
union itself is also a Person. I know this is almost inconceivable, but look at it 
thus. You know that among human beings, when they get together in a family, 
or a club, or a trade union, people talk about the "spirit" of that family, or club, 
or trade union. They talk about its "spirit" because the individual members, 
when they are together, do really develop particular ways of talking and be- 
having which they would not have if they were apart . 5 

It is as if a sort of communal personality came into existence. Of course, it 
is not a real person: it is only rather like a person. But that is just one of the 
differences between God and us. What grows out of the joint life of the Father 
and Son is a real Person, is in faet the Third of the three Persons who are God. 

This third Person is called, in technical language, the Holy Ghost or the 
"spirit" of God. Do not be worried or surprised if you find it (or Him) rather 
vaguer or more shadowy in your mind than the other two. I think there is a 
reason why that must be so. In the Christian life you are not usually look- 
ing at Him: He is always acting through you. If you think of the Father as 
something "out there," in front of you, and of the Son as someone standing 
at your side, helping you to pray, trying to turn you into another son, then 
you have to think of the third Person as something inside you, or behind you. 
Perhaps some people might find it easier to begin with the third Person and 
work backwards. God is love, and that love works through men — especially 
through the whole community of Christians. But this spirit oflove is, from all 
eternity, a love going on between the Father and Son. 

And now, what does it all matter? It matters more than anything else in the 
world. The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life is to 
be played out in each one of us: or (putting it the other way round) each one 
of us has got to enter that pattern, take his place in that dance. There is no 
other way to the happiness for which we were made. Good things as well as 
bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infeetion. If you want to get warm you 

5 - This corporate behaviour may, of course, be either better or worse than their indi¬ 
vidual behaviour. 



must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. 
If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, 
the thing that has them. Ihey are not a sort of prizes which God could, if He 
chose, just hånd out to anyone. Ihey are a great fountain of energy and beauty 
spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are dose to it, the spray will wet 
you: if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how 
could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do 
but wither and die? 

But how is he to be united to God? How is it possible for us to be taken into 
the three-Personal life? 

You remember what I said in Chapter II about begetting and making. We are 
not begotten by God, we are only made by Him: in our natural State we are 
not sons of God, only (so to speak) statues. We have not got Zoe or spiritual 
life: only Bios or biological life which is presently going to run down and die. 
Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let 
God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then 
be sharing a life which was begotten, not made, which always has existed and 
always will exist Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we 
also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy 
Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to 
spread to other men the kind of life He has — by what I call "good infection." 
Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a 
Christian is simply nothing else. 


T he Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God. 
We do not know — anyway, I do not know — how things would have 
worked if the human race had never rebelled against God and joined 
the enemy. Perhaps every man would have been "in Christ," would have shared 
the life of the Son of God, from the moment he was born. Perhaps the Bios or 
natural life would have been drawn up into the Zoe, the uncreated life, at once 
and as a matter of course. But that is guesswork. You and I are concerned with 
the way things work now. 

And the present State of things is this. The two kinds of life are now not 
only different (they would always have been that) but actually opposed. The 
natural life in each of us is something self-centred, something that wants to 
be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to exploit the whole 
universe. And especially it wants to be left to itself: to keep well away from 
anything better or stronger or higher than it, anything that might make it 
feel small. It is afraid of the light and air of the spiritual world, just as people 
who have been brought up to be dirty are afraid of a bath. And in a sense 



it is quite right It knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self- 
centredness and self-will are going to be killed and it is ready to fight tooth 
and nail to avoid that 

Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys 
could come to life? Well suppose you could really have brought them to life. 
Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning 
the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it He is not inter- 
ested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt He thinks you are killing 
him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a 
man if he can help it. 

What you would have done about that tin soldier I do not know. But what 
God did about us was this. The Second Person in God, the Son, became hu¬ 
man Himself: was born into the world as an actual man — a real man of a par- 
ticular height, with hair of a particular colour, speaking a particular language, 
weighing so many stone. The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who 
created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, 
and before that a foetus inside a Woman's body. If you want to get the hang of 
it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab. 

The result of this was that you now had one man who really was what all 
men were intended to be: one man in whom the created life, derived from his 
Mother, allowed itself to be completely and perfectly turned into the begotten 
life. The natural human creature in Him was taken up fully into the divine 
Son. Thus in one instance humanity had, so to speak, arrived: had passed into 
the life of Christ. And because the whole difficulty for us is that the natural 
life has to be, in a sense, "killed," He chose an earthly career which involved 
the killing of His human desires at every turn — poverty, misunderstanding 
from His own family, betrayal by one of His intimate friends, being jeered at 
and manhandled by the Police, and execution by torture. And then, after be¬ 
ing thus killed — killed every day in a sense — the human creature in Him, 
because it was united to the divine Son, came to life again. The Man in Christ 
rose again: not only the God. That is the whole point For the first time we saw 
a real man. One tin soldier — real tin, just like the rest — had come fully and 
splendidly alive. 

And here, of course, we come to the point where my illustration about the 
tin soldier breaks down. In the case of real toy soldiers or statues, if one came 
to life, it would obviously make no difference to the rest. Ihey are all separate. 
But human beings are not. Ihey look separate because you see diem walking 
about separately. But then, we are so made that we can see only the present 
moment. If we could see the past, then of course it would look different. For 
there was a time when every man was part of his mother, and (earlier still) 
part of his father as well: and when they were part of his grandparents. If you 
could see humanity spread out in time, as God sees it, it would not look like a 
lot of separate things dotted about. It would look like one single growing thing 



— rather like a very complicated tree. Every individual would appear con- 
nected with every other. And not only that. Individuals are not really separate 
from God any more than from one another. Every man, woman, and child all 
over the world is feeling and breathing at this moment only because God, so 
to speak, is "keeping him going." 

Consequently, when Christ becomes man it is not really as if you could 
become one particular tin soldier. It is as if something which is always affect- 
ing the whole human mass begins, at one point, to affect that whole human 
mass in a new way. From that point the effect spreads through all mankind. It 
makes a difference to people who lived before Christ as well as to people who 
lived after Him. It makes a difference to people who have never heard of Him. 
It is like dropping into a glass of water one drop of something which gives a 
new taste or a new colour to the whole lot. But, of course, none of these illus¬ 
trations really works perfectly. In the long run God is no one but Himself and 
what He does is like nothing else. You could hardly expect it to be. 

What, then, is the difference which He has made to the whole human mass? 
It is just this; that the business of becoming a son of God, of being turned from 
a created thing into a begotten thing, of passing over from the temporary 
biological life into timeless "spiritual" life, has been done for us. Humanity is 
already "saved" in principle. We individuals have to appropriate that salvation. 
But the really tough work — the bit we could not have done for ourselves — 
has been done for us. We have not got to try to climb up into spiritual life by 
our own efforts; it has already come down into the human race. If we will only 
lay ourselves open to the one Man in whom it was fully present, and who, in 
spite of being God, is also a real man, He will do it in us and for us. Remember 
what I said about "good infection." One of our own race has this new life: if we 
get close to Him we shall catch it from Him. 

Of course, you can express this in all sorts of different ways. You can say that 
Christ died for our sins. You may say that the Father has forgiven us because 
Christ has done for us what we ought to have done. You may say that we are 
washed in the biood of the Lamb. You may say that Christ has defeated death. 
They are all true. If any of them do not appeal to you, leave it alone and get 
on with the formula that does. And, whatever you do, do not start quarrelling 
with other people because they use a different formula from yours. 


I n order to avoid misunderstanding I here add notes on two points arising 
out of the last chapter. 

(1) One sensible critic wrote asking me why, if God wanted sons instead 
of "toy soldiers," He did not beget many sons at the outset instead of first mak- 
ing toy soldiers and then bringing them to life by such a difficult and painful 



process. One part of the answer to this question is fairly easy: the other part 
is probably beyond all human knowledge. The easy part is this. The process of 
being turned from a creature into a son would not have been difficult or pain- 
ful if the human race had not turned away from God centuries ago. They were 
able to do this because He gave them free will: He gave them free will because 
a world of mere automata could never love and therefore never know infinite 
happiness. The difficult part is this. All Christians are agreed that there is, in 
the full and original sense, only one "Son of God." If we insist on asking "But 
could there have been many?" we find ourselves in very deep water. Have the 
words "Could have been" any sense at all when applied to God? You can say 
that one particular finite thing "could have been" different from what it is, 
because it would have been different if something else had been different, 
and the something else would have been different if some third thing had 
been different, and so on. (The letters on this page would have been red if 
the printer had used red ink, and he would have used red ink if he had been 
instructed to, and so on.) But when you are talking about God — i.e. about the 
rock bottom, irreducible Faet on which all other facts depend — it is nonsen- 
sical to ask if It could have been otherwise. It is what It is, and there is an end 
of the matter. But quite apart from this, I find a difficulty about the very idea 
of the Father begetting many sons from all eternity. In order to be many they 
would have to be somehow different from one another. Two pennies have the 
same shape. How are they two? By occupying different places and containing 
different atoms. In other words, to think of them as different, we have had 
to bring in space and matter; in faet we have had to bring in "Nature" or the 
created universe. I can understand the distinetion between the Father and 
the Son without bringing in space or matter, because the one begets and the 
other is begotten. The Father's relation to the Son is not the same as the Sons 
relation to the Father. But if there were several sons they would all be related 
to one another and to the Father in the same way. How would they differ from 
one another? One does not notice the difficulty at first, of course. One thinks 
one can form the idea of several "sons." But when I think closely, I find that the 
idea seemed possible only because I was vaguely imagining them as human 
forms standing about together in some kind of space. In other words, though 
I pretended to be thinking about something that exists before any universe 
was made, I was really smuggling in the picture of a universe and putting that 
something inside it. When I stop doing that and still try to think of the Father 
begetting many sons "before all worlds" I find I am not really thinking of any- 
thing. The idea fades away into mere words. (Was Nature — space and time 
and matter — created precisely in order to make manyness possible? Is there 
perhaps no other way of getting many eternal spirits except by first making 
many natural creatures, in a universe, and then spiritualising them? But of 
course all this is guesswork.) 

(2) The idea that the whole human race is, in a sense, one thing — one 



huge organism, like a tree — must not be confused with the idea that indi- 
vidual differences do not matter or that real people, Tom and Nobby and Kate, 
are somehow less important than collective things like classes, races, and so 
forth. Indeed the two ideas are opposites. Things which are parts of a single 
organism may be very different from one another: things which are not, may 
be very alike. Six pennies are quite separate and very alike: my nose and my 
lungs are very different but they are only alive at all because they are parts of 
my body and share its common life. Christianity thinks of human individuals 
not as mere members of a group or items in a list, but as organs in a body — 
different from one another and each contributing what no other could. When 
you find yourself wanting to turn your children, or pupils, or even your neigh- 
bours, into people exactly like yourself, remember that God probably never 
meant them to be that. You and they are different organs, intended to do dif¬ 
ferent things. On the other hånd, when you are tempted not to bother about 
someone else's troubles because they are "no business of yours," remember 
that though he is different from you he is part of the same organism as you. If 
you forget that he belongs to the same organism as yourself you will become 
an Individualist. If you forget that he is a different organ from you, if you want 
to suppress differences and make people all alike, you will become a Totalitar- 
ian. But a Christian must not be either a Totalitarian or an Individualist. 

I feel a strong desire to tell you — and I expect you feel a strong desire to 
tell me — which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. 
He always sends errors into the world in pairs — pairs of opposites. And he 
always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You 
see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you 
gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep 
our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no 
other concern than that with either of them. 


M ay I once again start by putting two pictures, or two stories rather, 
into your minds? One is the story you have all read called Beauty 
and the Beast. The giri, you remember, had to marry a monster for 
some reason. And she did. She kissed it as if it were a man. And then, much 
to her relief, it really turned into a man and all went well. The other story is 
about someone who had to wear a mask; a mask which made him look much 
nicer than he really was. He had to wear it for year. And when he took it off 
he found his own face had grown to fit it. He was now really beautiful. What 
had begun as disguise had become a reality. I think both these stories may (in 
a fanciful way, of course) help to illustrate what I have to say in this chapter. 
Up till now, I have been trying to describe facts — what God is and what He 



has done. Now I want to talk about practice — what do we do next? What dif¬ 
ference does all this theology make? It can start making a difference tonight. 
If you are interested enough to have read thus far you are probably interested 
enough to make a shot at saying your prayers: and, whatever else you say, you 
will probably say the Lords Prayer. 

Its very first words are Our Father. Do you now see what those words mean? 
Ihey mean quite frankly, that you are putting yourself in the place of a son 
of God. To put it bluntly, you are dressing up as Christ. If you like, you are 
pretending. Because, of course, the moment you realise what the words mean, 
you realise that you are not a son of God. You are not being like The Son of 
God, whose will and interests are at one with those of the Father: you are 
a bundle of self-centred fears, hopes, greeds, jealousies, and self-conceit, all 
doomed to death. So that, in a way, this dressing up as Christ is a piece of out- 
rageous cheek. But the odd thing is that He has ordered us to do it. 

Why? What is the good of pretending to be what you are not? Well, even 
on the human level, you know, there are two kinds of pretending. There is a 
bad kind, where the pretence is there instead of the real thing; as when a man 
pretends he is going to help you instead of really helping you. But there is also 
a good kind, where the pretence leads up to the real thing. When you are not 
feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can 
do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer 
person than you actually are. And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, 
you will be really feeling friendlier than you were. Very often the only way to 
get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why 
children's games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown- 
ups — playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their 
muscles and sharpening their wits, so that the pretence of being grown-up 
helps them to grow up in earnest. 

Now, the moment you realise "Here I am, dressing up as Christ," it is ex- 
tremely likely that you will see at once some way in which at that very mo¬ 
ment the pretence could be made less of a pretence and more of a reality. You 
will find several things going on in your mind which would not be going on 
there if you were really a son of God. Well, stop them. Or you may realise that, 
instead of saying your prayers, you ought to be downstairs writing a letter, or 
helping your wife to wash-up. Well, go and do it. 

You see what is happening. The Christ Himself, the Son of God who is man 
(just like you) and God (just like His Father) is actually at your side and is 
already at that moment beginning to turn your pretence into a reality. This is 
not merely a fancy way of saying that your conscience is telling you what to 
do. If you simply ask your conscience, you get one result: if you remember that 
you are dressing up as Christ, you get a different one. There are lots of things 
which your conscience might not call definitely wrong (specially things in 
your mind) but which you will see at once you cannot go on doing if you are 



seriously trying to be like Christ. For you are no longer thinking simply about 
right and wrong; you are trying to catch the good infection from a Person. It 
is more like painting a portrait than like obeying a set of rules. And the odd 
thing is that while in one way it is much harder than keeping rules, in another 
way it is far easier. 

The real Son of God is at your side. He is beginning to turn you into the 
same kind of thing as Himself. He is beginning, so to speak, to "inject" His 
kind of life and thought, His Zoe, into you; beginning to turn the tin soldier 
into a live man. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin. 

Some of you may feel that this is very unlike your own experience. You may 
say "I've never had the sense of being helped by an invisible Christ, but I often 
have been helped by other human beings." That is rather like the woman in 
the first war who said that if there were a bread shortage it would not bother 
her house because they always ate toast. If there is no bread there will be no 
toast. If there were no help from Christ, there would be no help from other 
human beings. He works on us in all sorts of ways: not only through what we 
think our "religious life." He works through Nature, through our own bod¬ 
ies, through books, sometimes through experiences which seem (at the time) 
anfz'-Christian. When a young man who has been going to church in a routine 
way honestly realises that he does not believe in Christianity and stops going 
— provided he does it for honesty's sake and not just to annoy his parents — 
the spirit of Christ is probably nearer to him then than it ever was before. But 
above all, He works on us through each other. 

Men are mirrors, or "carriers" of Christ to other men. Sometimes uncon- 
scious carriers. This "good infection" can be carried by those who have not 
got it themselves. People who were not Christians themselves helped me to 
Christianity. But usually it is those who know Him that bring Him to others. 
That is why the Church, the whole body of Christians showing Him to one 
another, is so important. You might say that when two Christians are follow- 
ing Christ together there is not twice as much Christianity as when they are 
apart, but sixteen times as much. 

But do not forget this. At first it is natural for a baby to take its mother's 
milk without knowing its mother. It is equally natural for us to see the man 
who helps us without seeing Christ behind him. But we must not remain ba- 
bies. We must go on to recognise the real Giver. It is madness not to. Because, 
if we do not, we shall be relying on human beings. And that is going to let us 
down. The best of them will make mistakes; all of them will die. We must be 
thankful to all the people who have helped us, we must honour them and love 
them. But never, never pin your whole faith on any human being: not if he is 
the best and wisest in the whole world. There are lots of nice things you can 
do with sand; but do not try building a house on it. 

And now we begin to see what it is that the New Testament is always talk- 
ing about. It talks about Christians "being born again"; it talks about them 



"putting on Christ"; about Christ "being formed in us"; about our coming to 
"have the mind of Christ." 

Put right out of your head the idea that these are only fancy ways of say- 
ing that Christians are to read what Christ said and try to carry it out — as 
a man may read what Plato or Marx said and try to carry it out. They mean 
something much more than that. They mean that a real Person, Christ, here 
and now, in that very room where you are saying your prayers, is doing things 
to you. It is not a question of a good man who died two thousand years ago. 
It is a living Man, still as much a man as you, and still as much God as He 
was when He created the world, really coming and interfering with your very 
self; killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He 
has. At first, only for moments. Then for longer periods. Finally, if all goes 
well, turning you permanently into a different sort of thing; into a new little 
Christ, a being which, in its own small way, has the same kind of life as God; 
which shares in His power, joy, knowledge and eternity. And soon we make 
two other discoveries. 

(1) We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; 
begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This 
may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. 
When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, 
nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have 
sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that 
immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and 
unexpected: I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now 
that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they 
would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On 
the other hånd, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the 
best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the 
man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you 
are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness 
does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way 
the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it 
only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the 
cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before 
you switch on the light. Apparently the rats of resentment and vindictiveness 
are always there in the cellar of my soul. Now that cellar is out of reach of my 
conscious will. I can to some extent control my acts: I have no direct control 
over my temperament. And if (as I said before) what we are matters even 
more than what we do — if, indeed, what we do matters chiefly as evidence of 
what we are — then it follows that the change which I most need to undergo 
is a change that my own direct, voluntary efforts cannot bring about And 
this applies to my good actions too. How many of them were done for the 
right motive? How many for fear of public opinion, or a desire to show off? 



How many from a sort of obstinacy or sense of superiority which, in different 
circumstances, might equally had led to some very bad act? But I cannot, by 
direct moral effort, give myself new motives. After the first few steps in the 
Christian life we realise that everything which really needs to be done in our 
souls can be done only by God. And that brings us to something which has 
been very misleading in my language up to now. 

(2) I have been talking as if it were we who did everything. In reality, of 
course, it is God who does everything. We, at most, allow it to be done to us. 
In a sense you might even say it is God who does the pretending. The Three- 
Personal God, so to speak, sees before Him in faet a self-centred, greedy, 
grumbling, rebellious human animal. But He says "Let us pretend that this 
is not a mere creature, but our Son. It is like Christ in so far as it is a Man, 
for He became Man. Let us pretend that it is also like Him in Spirit. Let us 
treat it as if it were what in faet it is not. Let us pretend in order to make the 
pretence into a reality." God looks at you as if you were a little Christ: Christ 
stands beside you to turn you into one. I daresay this idea of a divine make- 
believe sounds rather strange at first. But, is it so strange really? Is not that 
how the higher thing always raises the lower? A mother teaches her baby to 
talk by talking to it as if it understood long before it really does. We treat our 
dogs as if they were "almost human": that is why they really become "almost 
human" in the end. 


I n the last chapter we were considering the Christian idea of "putting on 
Christ," or first "dressing up" as a son of God in order that you may finally 
become a real son. What I want to make clear is that this is not one among 
many jobs a Christian has to do; and it is not a sort of special exercise for the 
top class. It is the whole of Christianity. Christianity offers nothing else at all. 
And I should like to point out how it differs from ordinary ideas of "morality" 
and "being good." 

The ordinary idea which we all have before we become Christians is this. 
We take as starting point our ordinary self with its various desires and inter- 
ests. We then admit that something else call it "morality" or "decent behav- 
iour," or "the good of society" has claims on this self: claims which interfere 
with its own desires. What we mean by "being good" is giving in to those 
claims. Some of the things the ordinary self wanted to do turn out to be what 
we call "wrong": well, we must give them up. Other things, which the self did 
not want to do, turn out to be what we call "right": well, we shall have to do 
them. But we are hoping all the time that when all the demands have been 
met, the poor natural self will still have some chance, and some time, to get 
on with its own life and do what it likes. In faet, we are very like an honest 



man paying his taxes. He pays them all right, but he does hope that there will 
be enough left over for him to live on. Because we are still taking our natural 
self as the starting point. 

As long as we are thinking that way, one or other of two results is likely to 
follow. Either we give up trying to be good, or else we become very unhappy 
indeed. For, make no mistake: if you are really going to try to meet all the 
demands made on the natural self, it will not have enough left over to live on. 
The more you obey your conscience, the more your conscience will demand 
of you. And your natural self, which is thus being starved and hampered and 
worried at every turn, will get angrier and angrier. In the end, you will either 
give up trying to be good, or else become one of those people who, as they 
say, "live for others" but always in a discontented, grumbling way — always 
wondering why the others do not notice it more and always making a martyr 
of yourself. And once you have become that you will be a far greater pest to 
anyone who has to live with you than you would have been if you had re- 
mained frankly selfish. 

The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says "Give me All. 
I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much 
of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but 
to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here 
and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don't want to drill 
the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hånd over the whole natu¬ 
ral self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think 
wicked — the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In faet, I will give 
you Myself: my own will shall become yours." 

Both harder and easier than what we are all trying to do. You have noticed, 
I expect, that Christ Himself sometimes describes the Christian way as very 
hard, sometimes as very easy. He says, "Take up your Cross" — in other words, 
it is like going to be beaten to death in a concentration camp. Next minute he 
says, "My yoke is easy and my burden light." He means both. And one can just 
see why both are true. 

Teachers will tell you that the laziest boy in the class is the one who works 
hårdest in the end. They mean this. If you give two boys, say, a proposition 
in geometry to do, the one who is prepared to take trouble will try to under¬ 
stand it. The lazy boy will try to learn it by heart because, for the moment, 
that needs less effort. But six months later, when they are preparing for an 
exam., that lazy boy is doing hours and hours of miserable drudgery over 
things the other boy understands, and positively enjoys, in a few minutes. 
Laziness means more work in the long run. Or look at it this way. In a battie, 
or in mountain climbing, there is often one thing which it takes a lot of pluck 
to do; but it is also, in the long run, the safest thing to do. If you funk it, you 
will find yourself, hours later, in far worse danger. The cowardly thing is also 
the most dangerous thing. 



It is like that here. The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to 
hånd over your whole self — all your wishes and precautions — to Christ. 
But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are 
trying to do is to remain what we call "ourselves," to keep personal happiness 
as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be "good." We are all trying 
to let our mind and heart go their own way — centred on money or pleasure 
or ambition — and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely 
and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As 
He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a held that contains nothing but 
grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I 
shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change 
must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown. 

That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do 
not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. 
All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the 
first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening 
to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, 
stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from 
all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind. 

We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new 
sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting 
Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is 
merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through. He 
never talked vague, idealistic gas. When he said, "Be perfect," He meant it. 
He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of 
compromise we are all hankering after is harder — in faet, it is impossible. 
It may be hard for an egg to turn into a hird: it would be a jolly sight harder 
for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And 
you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be 
hatched or go bad. 

May I come back to what I said before? This is the whole of Christianity. 
There is nothing else. It is so easy to get muddled about that. It is easy to think 
that the Church has a lot of different objects — education, budding, missions, 
holding services. Just as it is easy to think the State has a lot of different ob¬ 
jects — military, political, economic, and what not. But in a way things are 
mueh simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the 
ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting 
over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading 
a book in his own room or digging in his own garden — that is what the State 
is there for. And unless they are helping to inerease and prolong and protect 
such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, 
etc., are simply a waste of time. In the same way the Church exists for nothing 
else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not 



doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, 
are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even 
doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other 
purpose. It says in the Bible that the whole universe was made for Christ and 
that everything is to be gathered together in Him. I do not suppose any of us 
can understand how this will happen as regards the whole universe. We do 
not know what (if anything) lives in the parts of it that are millions of miles 
away from this Earth. Even on this Earth we do not know how it applies to 
things other than men. After all, that is what you would expect. We have been 
shown the plan only in so far as it concerns ourselves. 

I sometimes like to imagine that I can just see how it might apply to other 
things. I think I can see how the higher animals are in a sense drawn into Man 
when he loves them and makes them (as he does) much more nearly human 
than they would otherwise be. I can even see a sense in which the dead things 
and plants are drawn into Man as he studies them and uses and appreciates 
them. And if there were intelligent creatures in other worlds they might do 
the same with their worlds. It might be that when intelligent creatures entered 
into Christ they would, in that way, bring all the other things in along with 
them. But I do not know: it is only a guess. 

What we have been told is how we men can be drawn into Christ — can 
become part of that wonderful present which the young Prince of the universe 
wants to offer to His Father — that present which is Himself and therefore us 
in Him. It is the only thing we were made for. And there are strange, exciting 
hints in the Bible that when we are drawn in, a great many other things in Na¬ 
ture will begin to come right. The bad dream will be over: it will be morning. 


I find a good many people have been bothered by what I said in the last 
chapter about Our Lords words, "Be ye perfect." Some people seem to 
think this means "Unless you are perfect, I will not help you"; and as we 
cannot be perfect, then, if He meant that, our position is hopeless. But I do 
not think He did mean that. I think He meant "The only help I will give is 
help to become perfect. You may want something less: but I will give you 
nothing less." 

Let me explain. When I was a child I offen had toothache, and I knew that 
if I went to my mother she would give me something which would deaden the 
pain for that night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother — at 
least, not till the pain became very bad. And the reason I did not go was this. 
I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin; but I knew she would also do 
something else. I knew she would take me to the dentist next morning. I could 
not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did 



not want. I wanted immediate relief from pain: but I could not get it without 
having my teeth set permanently right. And I knew those dentists; I knew 
they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet 
begun to ache. They would not let sleeping dogs lie; if you gave them an inch 
they took an ell. 

Now, if I may put it that way, Our Lord is like the dentists. If you give Him 
an inch, He will take an ell. Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some 
one particular sin which they are ashamed of (like masturbation or physical 
cowardice) or which is obviously spoiling daily life (like bad temper or drunk- 
enness). Well, He will cure it all right: but He will not stop there. That may be 
all you asked; but if once you call Him in, He will give you the full treatment. 

That is why He warned people to "count the cost" before becoming Chris¬ 
tians. "Make no mistake," He says, "if you let me, I will make you perfect. The 
moment you put yourself in My hånds, that is what you are in for. Nothing 
less, or other, than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push 
Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to 
see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, 
whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it 
costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect — 
until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, 
as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will 
not do anything less." 

And yet — this is the other and equally important side of it — this Helper 
who will, in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfec- 
tion, will also be delighted with the first feeble, stumbling effort you make 
tomorrow to do the simplest duty. As a great Christian writer (George Mac- 
Donald) pointed out, every father is pleased at the babys first attempt to 
walk: no father would be satisfied with anything less than a firm, free, manly 
walk in a grown-up son. In the same way, he said, "God is easy to piease, but 
hard to satisfy." 

The practical upshot is this. On the one hånd, Gods demand for perfection 
need not discourage you in the least in your present attempts to be good, or 
even in your present failures. Each time you fali He will pick you up again. 
And He knows perfectly well that your own efforts are never going to bring 
you anywhere near perfection. On the other hånd, you must realise from the 
outset that the goal towards which He is beginning to guide you is absolute 
perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except you yourself, can pre¬ 
vent Him from taking you to that goal. That is what you are in for. And it is 
very important to realise that. If we do not, then we are very likely to start 
pulling back and resisting Him after a certain point. I think that many of us, 
when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious 
nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not out it into words) that we are 
now good enough. He has done all we wanted Him to do, and we should be 



obliged if He would now leave us alone. As we say "I never expected to be a 
saint, I only wanted to be a decent ordinary chap." And we imagine when we 
say this that we are being humble. 

But this is the fatal mistake. Of course we never wanted, and never asked, 
to be made into the sort of creatures He is going to make us into. But the 
question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to 
be when He made us. He is the inventor, we are only the machine. He is the 
painter, we are only the picture. How should we know what He means us to 
be like? You see, He has already made us something very different from what 
we were. Long ago, before we were born, when we were inside our mothers' 
bodies, we passed through various stages. We were once rather like vegetables, 
and once rather like fish; it was only at a later stage that we became like hu¬ 
man babies. And if we had been conscious at those earlier stages, I daresay we 
should have been quite contented to stay as vegetables or fish — should not 
have wanted to be made into babies. But all the time He knew His plan for us 
and was determined to carry it out. Something the same is now happening at 
a higher level. We may be content to remain what we call "ordinary people": 
but He is determined to carry out a quite different plan. To shrink back from 
that plan is not humility; it is laziness and cowardice. To submit to it is not 
conceit or megalomania; it is obedience. 

Here is another way of putting the two sides of the truth. On the one hånd 
we must never imagine that our own unaided efforts can be relied on to carry 
us even through the next twenty-four hours as "decent" people. If He does not 
support us, not one of us is safe from some gross sin. On the other hånd, no 
possible degree of holiness or heroism which has ever been recorded of the 
greatest saints is beyond what He is determined to produce in every one of us 
in the end. The job will not be completed in this life: but He means to get us 
as far as possible before death. 

That is why we must not be surprised if we are in for a rough time. When a 
man turns to Christ and seems to be getting on pretty well (in the sense that 
some of his bad habits are now corrected), he offen feels that it would now be 
natural if things went fairly smoothly. When troubles come along — illnesses, 
money troubles, new kinds of temptation — he is disappointed. These things, 
he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his 
bad old days; but why now? Because God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher 
level: putting him into situations where he will have to be very much braver, 
or more patient, or more loving, than he ever dreamed of being before. It 
seems to us all unnecessary: but that is because we have not yet had the slight- 
est notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us. 

I find I must borrow yet another parable from George MacDonald. Imagine 
yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, per¬ 
haps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and 
stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed do- 



ing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house 
about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What 
on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different 
house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting 
on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought 
you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a 
palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself. 

The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to 
do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that 
command. He said (in the Bible) that we were "gods" and He is going to 
make good His words. If we let Him — for we can prevent Him, if we choose 
— He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a daz- 
zling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy 
and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless 
mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller 
scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will 
be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. 
He meant what He said. 


H e meant what He said. Those who put themselves in His hånds will 
become perfect, as He is perfect — perfect in love, wisdom, joy, beau- 
ty, and immortality. The change will not be completed in this life, for 
death is an important part of the treatment. How far the change will have gone 
before death in any particular Christian is uncertain. 

I think this is the right moment to consider a question which is often asked: 
If Christianity is true why are not all Christians obviously nicer than all non- 
Christians? What lies behind that question is partly something very reason- 
able and partly something that is not reasonable at all. The reasonable part is 
this. If conversion to Christianity makes no improvement in a mans outward 
actions — if he continues to be just as snobbish or spiteful or envious or am- 
bitious as he was before — then I think we must suspect that his "conver¬ 
sion" was largely imaginary; and atter one's original conversion, every time 
one thinks one has made an advance, that is the test to apply. Fine feelings, 
new insights, greater interest in "religion" mean nothing unless they make 
our actual behaviour better; just as in an illness "feeling better" is not much 
good if the thermometer shows that your temperature is still going up. In that 
sense the outer world is quite right to judge Christianity by its results. Christ 
told us to judge by results. A tree is known by its fruit; or, as we say, the proof 
of the pudding is in the eating. When we Christians behave badly, or fail to 
behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world. 



The wartime posters told us that Careless Talk costs Lives. It is equally true 
that Careless Lives cost Talk. Our careless lives set the outer world talking; 
and we give them grounds for talking in a way that throws doubt on the truth 
of Christianity itself. 

But there is another way of demanding results in which the outer world may 
be quite illogical. They may demand not merely that each mans life should 
improve if he becomes a Christian: they may also demand before they believe 
in Christianity that they should see the whole world neatly divided into two 
camps — Christian and non-Christian — and that all the people in the first 
camp at any given moment should be obviously nicer than all the people in 
the second. This is unreasonable on several grounds. 

(1) In the first place the situation in the actual world is much more com- 
plicated than that. The world does not consist of 100 per cent Christians and 
100 per cent non-Christians. There are people (a great many of them) who 
are slowly ceasing to be Christians but who still call themselves by that name: 
some of them are clergymen. There are other people who are slowly becom- 
ing Christians though they do not yet call themselves so. There are people 
who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so 
strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they 
themselves understand. There are people in other religions who are being led 
by Gods secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which 
are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without 
knowing it. For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate 
more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the 
background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching 
on certain other points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christ's birth 
may have been in this position. And always, of course, there are a great many 
people who are just confused in mind and have a lot of inconsistent beliefs all 
jumbled up together. Consequently, it is not much use trying to make judg- 
ments about Christians and non-Christians in the mass. It is some use com- 
paring cats and dogs, or even men and women, in the mass, because there one 
knows definitely which is which. Also, an animal does not turn (either slowly 
or suddenly) from a dog into a cat. But when we are comparing Christians in 
general with non-Christians in general, we are usually not thinking about real 
people whom we know at all, but only about two vague ideas which we have 
got from novels and newspapers. If you want to compare the bad Christian 
and the good Atheist, you must think about two real specimens whom you 
have actually met. Unless we come down to brass tacks in that way, we shall 
only be wasting time. 

(2) Suppose we have come down to brass tacks and are now talking not 
about an imaginary Christian and an imaginary non-Christian, but about two 
real people in our own neighbourhood. Even then we must be careful to ask 
the right question. If Christianity is true then it ought to follow (a) That any 



Christian will be nicer than the same person would be if he were not a Chris¬ 
tian. (b) That any man who becomes a Christian will be nicer than he was 
before. Just in the same way, if the advertisements of Whitesmile's toothpaste 
are true it ought to follow (a) That anyone who uses it will have better teeth 
than the same person would have if he did not use it. (b) That if anyone begins 
to use it his teeth will improve. But to point out that I, who use Whitesmile's 
(and also have inherited bad teeth from both my parents), have not got as 
fine a set as some healthy young Negro who never used toothpaste at all, does 
not, by itself, prove that the advertisements are untrue. Christian Miss Bates 
may have an unkinder tongue than unbelieving Dick Firkin. That, by itself, 
does not tell us whether Christianity works. The question is what Miss Bates's 
tongue would be like if she were not a Christian and what Dicks would be like 
if he became one. Miss Bates and Dick, as a result of natural causes and early 
upbringing, have certain temperaments: Christianity professes to put both 
temperaments under new management if they will allow it to do so. What 
you have a right to ask is whether that management, if allowed to take over, 
improves the concern. Everyone knows that what is being managed in Dick 
Firkin's case is much "nicer" than what is being managed in Miss Bates's. That 
is not the point. To judge the management of a factory, you must consider not 
only the output but the plant. Considering the plant at Factory A it may be 
a wonder that it turns out anything at all; considering the first-class outfit at 
Factory B its output, though high, may be a great deal lower than it ought to 
be. No doubt the good manager at Factory A is going to put in new machinery 
as soon as he can, but that takes time. In the meantime low output does not 
prove that he is a failure. 

(3) And now, let us go a little deeper. The manager is going to put in new 
machinery: before Christ has finished with Miss Bates, she is going to be very 
"nice" indeed. But if we leff it at that, it would sound as though Christ's only 
aim was to pull Miss Bates up to the same level on which Dick had been all 
along. We have been talking, in faet, as if Dick were all right; as if Christianity 
was something nasty people needed and nice ones could afford to do with- 
out; and as if niceness was all that God demanded. But this would be a fatal 
mistake. The truth is that in God's eyes Dick Firkin needs "saving" every bit 
as much as Miss Bates. In one sense (I will explain what sense in a moment) 
niceness hardly comes into the question. 

You cannot expect God to look at Dicks placid temper and friendly dispo¬ 
sition exaetly as we do. They result from natural causes which God Himself 
creates. Being merely temperamental, they will all disappear if Dicks diges¬ 
tion alters. The niceness, in faet, is God's gift to Dick, not Dicks gift to God. 
In the same way, God has allowed natural causes, working in a world spoiled 
by centuries of sin, to produce in Miss Bates the narrow mind and jangled 
nerves which account for most of her nastiness. He intends, in His own good 
time, to set that part of her right. But that is not, for God, the critical part 



of the business. It presents no difficulties. It is not what He is anxious about. 
What He is watching and waiting and working for is something that is not 
easy even for God, because, from the nature of the case, even He cannot 
produce it by a mere act of power. He is waiting and watching for it both in 
Miss Bates and in Dick Firkin. It is something they can freely give Him or 
freely refuse to Him. Will they, or will they not, turn to Him and thus fulfil 
the only purpose for which they were created? Their free will is trembling 
inside them like the needle of a compass. But this is a needle that can choose. 
It can point to its true North; but it need not. Will the needle swing round, 
and settie, and point to God? 

He can help it to do so. He cannot force it. He cannot, so to speak, put out 
His own hånd and pull it into the right position, for then it would not be free 
will any more. Will it point North? That is the question on which all hangs. 
Will Miss Bates and Dick offer their natures to God? The question whether 
the natures they offer or withhold are, at that moment, nice or nasty ones, is of 
secondary importance. God can see to that part of the problem. 

Do not misunderstand me. Of course God regards a nasty nature as a bad 
and deplorable thing. And, of course, He regards a nice nature as a good thing 
— good like bread, or sunshine, or water. But these are the good things which 
He gives and we receive. He created Dicks sound nerves and good digestion, 
and there is plenty more where they came from. It costs God nothing, so far 
as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious wills cost Him cru- 
cifixion. And because they are wills they can — in nice people just as much as 
in nasty ones — refuse His request. And then, because that niceness in Dick 
was merely part of nature, it will all go to pieces in the end. Nature herself will 
all pass away. Natural causes come together in Dick to make a pleasant psy- 
chological pattern, just as they come together in a sunset to make a pleasant 
pattern of colours. Presently (for that is how nature works) they will fali apart 
again and the pattern in both cases will disappear. Dick has had the chance to 
turn (or rather, to allow God to turn) that momentary pattern into the beauty 
of an eternal spirit: and he has not taken it. 

There is a paradox here. As long as Dick does not turn to God, he thinks 
his niceness is his own, and just as long as he thinks that, it is not his own. It 
is when Dick realises that his niceness is not his own but a gift from God, and 
when he offers it back to God — it is just then that it begins to be really his 
own. For now Dick is beginning to take a share in his own creation. The only 
things we can keep are the things we freely give to God. What we try to keep 
for ourselves is just what we are sure to lose. 

We must, therefore, not be surprised if we find among the Christians some 
people who are still nasty. There is even, when you come to think it over, a 
reason why nasty people might be expected to turn to Christ in greater num- 
bers than nice ones. That was what people objected to about Christ during 
His life on earth: He seemed to attract "such awful people." That is what peo- 



pie still object to, and always will. Do you not see why? Christ said "’Blessed 
are the poor" and "How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom," and no 
doubt He primarily meant the economically rich and economically poor. But 
do not His words also apply to another kind of riches and p overty? One of 
the dangers of having a lot of money is that you may be quite satisfied with 
the kinds of happiness money can give and so fail to realise your need for 
God. If everything seems to come simply by signing checks, you may forget 
that you are at every moment totally dependent on God. Now quite plainly, 
natural gifts carry with them a similar danger. If you have sound nerves and 
intelligence and health and popularity and a good upbringing, you are likely 
to be quite satisfied with your character as it is. "Why drag God into it?" you 
may ask. A certain level of good conduct comes fairly easily to you. You are 
not one of those wretched creatures who are always being tripped up by sex, 
or dipsomania, or nervousness, or bad temper. Everyone says you are a nice 
chap and (between ourselves) you agree with them. You are quite likely to 
believe dial all this niceness is your own doing: and you may easily not feel the 
need for any better kind of goodness. Often people who have all these natural 
kinds of goodness cannot be brought to recognise their need for Christ at all 
until, one day, the natural goodness lets them down and their self-satisfaction 
is shattered. In other words, it is hard for those who are "rich" in this sense to 
enter the Kingdom. 

It is very different for the nasty people — the little, low, timid, warped, thin- 
blooded, lonely people, or the passionate, sensual, unbalanced people. If they 
make any attempt at goodness at all, they learn, in double quick time, that 
they need help. It is Christ or nothing for them. It is taking up the cross and 
following — or else despair. They are the lost sheep; He came specially to find 
them. They are (in one very real and terrible sense) the "poor": He blessed 
diem. They are the "awful set" he goes about with — and of course the Phari- 
sees say still, as they said from the first, "If there were anything in Christianity 
those people would not be Christians." 

There is either a warning or an encouragement here for every one of us. 
If you are a nice person — if virtue comes easily to you beware! Much is ex- 
pected from those to whom much is given. If you mistake for your own merits 
what are really Gods gifts to you through nature, and if you are contented 
with simply being nice, you are still a rebel: and all those gifts will only make 
your fall more terrible, your corruption more complicated, your bad example 
more disastrous. The Devil was an archangel once; his natural gifts were as far 
above yours as yours are above those of a chimpanzee. 

But if you are a poor creature — poisoned by a wretched upbringing in 
some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels — saddled, by 
no choice of your own, with some loathsome sexual perversion — nagged 
day in and day out by an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your 
best friends — do not despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor 



whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to 
drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day (perhaps in another world, but 
perhaps far sooner than that) he will fling it on the scrap-heap and give you a 
new one. And then you may astonish us all — not least yourself: for you have 
learned your driving in a hard school. (Some of the last will be first and some 
of the first will be last.) 

"Niceness" — wholesome, integrated personality — is an excellent thing. 
We must try by every medical, educational, economic, and political means 
in our power, to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up 
"nice"; just as we must try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But 
we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we 
should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own 
niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as des- 
perately in need of salvation as a miserable world — and might even be more 
difficult to save. 

For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always im- 
proves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a 
degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: 
not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of 
man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning 
a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar 
over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural 
horse at its own game. But there may be a period, while the wings are just 
beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at that stage the lumps on the 
shoulders — no one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be 
wings — may even give it an awkward appearance. 

But perhaps we have already spent too long on this question. If what you 
want is an argument against Christianity (and I well remember how eagerly 
I looked for such arguments when I began to be afraid it was true) you can 
easily find some stupid and unsatisfactory Christian and say, "So there's your 
boasted new man! Give me the old kind." But if once you have begun to see 
that Christianity is on other grounds probable, you will know in your heart 
that this is only evading the issue. What can you ever really know of other 
people's souls — of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? 
One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate 
is placed in your hånds. If there is a God, you are, in a sense, alone with Him. 
You cannot put Him off with speculations about your next door neighbours 
or memories of what you have read in books. What will all that chatter and 
hearsay count (will you even be able to remember it?) when the anaesthetic 
fog which we call "nature" or "the real world" fades away and the Presence in 
which you have always stood becomes palpable, immediate, and unavoidable? 




I n the last chapter I compared Christ's work of making New Men to the 
process of turning a horse into a winged creature. I used that extreme 
example in order to emphasise the point that it is not mere improvement 
but Transformation. The nearest parallel to it in the world of nature is to be 
found in the remarkable transformations we can make in insects by applying 
certain rays to them. Some people think this is how Evolution worked. The 
alterations in creatures on which it all depends may have been produced by 
rays coming from outer space. (Of course once the alterations are there, what 
they call "Natural Selection" gets to work on them: i.e., the useful alterations 
survive and the other ones get weeded out.) 

Perhaps a modern man can understand the Christian idea hest if he takes it 
in connection with Evolution. Everyone now knows about Evolution (though, 
of course, some educated people disbelieve it): everyone has been told that 
man has evolved from lower types of life. Consequently, people often wonder 
"What is the next step? When is the thing beyond man going to appear?" Im- 
aginative writers try sometimes to picture this next step — the "Superman" as 
they call him; but they usually only succeed in picturing someone a good deal 
nastier than man as we know him and then try to make up for that by stick- 
ing on extra legs or arms. But supposing the next step was to be something 
even more different from the earlier steps than they ever dreamed of? And is 
it not very likely it would be? Thousands of centuries ago huge, very heavily 
armoured creatures were evolved. If anyone had at that time been watching 
the course of Evolution he would probably have expected that it was going 
to go on to heavier and heavier armour. But he would have been wrong. The 
future had a card up its sleeve which nothing at that time would have led him 
to expect. It was going to spring on him little, naked, unarmoured animals 
which had better brains: and with those brains they were going to master the 
whole planet. They were not merely going to have more power than the pre- 
historic monsters, they were going to have a new kind of power. The next step 
was not only going to be different, but different with a new kind of difference. 
The stream of Evolution was not going to flow on in the direction in which he 
saw it flowing: it was in faet going to take a sharp bend. 

Now it seems to me that most of the popular guesses at the Next Step are 
making just the same sort of mistake. People see (or at any rate they think they 
see) men developing greater brains and getting greater mastery over nature. 
And because they think the stream is flowing in that direction, they imagine 
it will go on flowing in that direction. But I cannot help thinking that the 
Next Step will be really new; it will go off in a direction you could never have 
dreamed of. It would hardly be worth calling a New Step unless it did. I should 
expect not merely difference but a new kind of difference. I should expect 
not merely change but a new method of producing the change. Or, to make 



an Irish buli, I should expect the next stage in Evolution not to be a stage in 
Evolution at all: should expect the Evolution itself as a method of producing 
change, will be superseded. And finally, I should not be surprised if, when the 
thing happened, very few people noticed that it was happening. 

Now, if you care to talk in these terms, the Christian view is precisely that 
the Next Step has already appeared. And it is really new. It is not a change 
from brainy men to brainier men: it is a change that goes off in a totally differ- 
ent direction — a change from being creatures of God to being sons of God. 
The first instance appeared in Palestine two thousand years ago. In a sense, 
the change is not "Evolution" at all, because it is not something arising out of 
the natural process of events but something coming into nature from outside. 
But that is what I should expect. We arrived at our idea of "Evolution" from 
studying the past. If there are real novelties in store then of course our idea, 
based on the past, will not really cover them. And in faet this New Step differs 
from all previous ones not only in coming from outside nature but in several 
other ways as well. 

(1) It is not carried on by sexual reproduction. Need we be surprised at 
that? There was a time before sex had appeared; development used to go on 
by different methods. Consequently, we might have expected that there would 
come a time when sex disappeared, or else (which is what is actually hap¬ 
pening) a time when sex, though it continued to exist, ceased to be the main 
channel of development. 

(2) At the earlier stages living organisms have had either no choice or very 
little choice about taking the new step. Progress was, in the main, something 
that happened to them, not something that they did. But the new step, the 
step from being creatures to being sons, is voluntary. At least, voluntary in one 
sense. It is not voluntary in the sense that we, of ourselves, could have chosen 
to take it or could even have imagined it; but it is voluntary in the sense that 
when it is offered to us we can refuse it. We can, if we piease, shrink back: we 
can dig in our heels and let the new Humanity go on without us. 

(3) I have called Christ the "first instance" of the new man. But of course He 
is something mueh more than that. He is not merely a new man, one speci- 
men of the species, but the new man. He is the origin and centre and life of 
all the new men. He came into the created universe, of His own will, bringing 
with Him the Zoe, the new life. (I mean new to us, of course: in its own place 
Zoe has existed for ever and ever.) And He transmits it not by heredity but by 
what I have called "good infeetion." Everyone who gets it gets it by personal 
contact with Him. Other men become "new" by being "in Him." 

(4) This step is taken at a different speed from the previous ones. Compared 
with the development of man on this planet, the diffusion of Christianity over 
the human race seems to go like a flash of lightning — for two thousand years 
is almost nothing in the history of the universe. (Never forget that we are all 
still "the early Christians." The present wicked and wasteful divisions between 



us are, let us hope, a disease of infancy: we are still teething. The outer world, 
no doubt, thinks just the opposite. It thinks we are dying of old age. But it has 
drought that so often before! Again and again it has thought Christianity was 
dying, dying by persecutions from without or corruptions from within, by the 
rise of Mohammedanism, the rise of the physical Sciences, the rise of great 
anti-Christian revolutionary movements. But every time the world has been 
disappointed. Its first disappointment was over the crucifixion. The Man came 
to life again. In a sense — and I quite realise how frightfully unfair it must 
seem to them — that has been happening ever since. They keep on killing the 
thing that He started: and each time, just as they are patting down the earth 
on its grave, they suddenly hear that it is still alive and has even broken out in 
some new place. No wonder they hate us.) 

(5) The stakes are higher. By falling back at the earlier steps a creature lost, 
at the worst, its few years of life on this earth: very often it did not lose even 
that. By falling back at this step we lose a prize which is (in the strictest sense 
of the word) infinite. For now the critical moment has arrived. Century by 
century God has guided nature up to the point of producing creatures which 
can (if they will) be taken right out of nature, turned into "gods." Will they 
allow themselves to be taken? In a way, it is like the crisis of birth. Until we 
rise and follow Christ we are still parts of Nature, still in the womb of our 
great mother. Her pregnancy has been long and painful and anxious, but it 
has reached its climax. The great moment has come. Everything is ready. The 
Doctor has arrived. Will the birth "go off all right"? But of course it differs 
from an ordinary birth in one important respect. In an ordinary birth the 
baby has not much choice: here it has. I wonder what an ordinary baby would 
do if it had the choice. It might prefer to stay in the dark and warmth and 
safety of the womb. For of course it would think the womb meant safety. That 
would be just where it was wrong; for if it stays there it will die. 

On this view the thing has happened: the new step has been taken and 
is being taken. Already the new men are dotted here and there all over the 
earth. Some, as I have admitted, are still hardly recognisable: but others can 
be recognised. Every now and then one meets them. Tbeir very voices and 
faces are different from ours; stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant. They 
begin where most of us leave off. They are, I say, recognisable; but you must 
know what to look for. They will not be very like the idea of "religious people" 
which you have formed from your general reading. They do not draw atten¬ 
tion to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when 
they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but 
they need you less. (We must get over wanting to be needed: in some good- 
ish people, specially women, that is the hårdest of all temptations to resist.) 
They will usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes 
from. When you have recognised one of them, you will recognise the next 
one much more easily. And I strongly suspect (but how should I know?) that 



they recognise one another immediately and infallibly, across every barrier of 
colour, sex, class, age, and even of creeds. In that way, to become holy is rather 
like joining a secret society. To put it at the very lowest, it must be great fun. 

But you must not imagine that the new men are, in the ordinary sense, all 
alike. A good deal of what I have been saying in this last book might make you 
suppose that that was bound to be so. To become new men means losing what 
we now call "ourselves." Out of ourselves, into Christ, we must go. His will is 
to become ours and we are to think His thoughts, to "have the mind of Christ" 
as the Bible says. And if Christ is one, and if He is thus to be "in" us all, shall 
we not be exactly the same? It certainly sounds like it; but in faet it is not so. 

It is difficult here to get a good illustration; because, of course, no other 
two things are related to each other just as the Creator is related to one of His 
creatures. But I will try two very imperfeet illustrations which may give a hint 
of the truth. Imagine a lot of people who have always lived in the dark. You 
come and try to describe to them what light is like. You might tell them that if 
they come into the light that same light would fali on them all and they would 
all reflect it and thus become what we call visible. Is it not quite possible that 
they would imagine that, since they were all receiving the same light, and all 
reacting to it in the same way (i.e., all reflecting it), they would all look alike? 
Whereas you and I know that the light will in faet bring out, or show up, how 
different they are. Or again, suppose a person who knew nothing about salt. 
You give him a pinch to taste and he experiences a particular strong, sharp 
taste. You then tell him that in your country people use salt in all their cook- 
ery. Might he not reply "In that case I suppose all your dishes taste exactly the 
same: because the taste of that stuff you have just given me is so strong that it 
will kill the taste of everything else." But you and I know that the real effeet of 
salt is exactly the opposite. So far from killing the taste of the egg and the tripe 
and the cabbage, it actually brings it out. They do not show their real taste till 
you have added the salt. (Of course, as I warned you, this is not really a very 
good illustration, because you can, after all, kill the other tastes by putting in 
too mueh salt, whereas you cannot kill the taste of a human personality by 
putting in too mueh Christ. I am doing the best I can.) 

It is something like that with Christ and us. The more we get what we now 
call "ourselves" out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly our¬ 
selves we become. There is so mueh of Him that millions and millions of "little 
Christs," all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. He made them 
all. He invented — as an author invents characters in a novel — all the differ¬ 
ent men that you and I were intended to be. In that sense our real selves are 
all waiting for us in Him. It is no good trying to "be myself" without Him. The 
more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated 
by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. 
In faet what I so proudly call "Myself" becomes merely the meeting place for 
trains of events which I never started and which I cannot stop. What I call 



"My wishes" become merely the desires thrown up by my physical organism 
or pumped into me by other mens thoughts or even suggested to me by dev- 
ils. Eggs and alcohol and a good night's sleep will be the real origins of what 
I flatter myself by regarding as my own highly personal and discriminating 
decision to make love to the giri opposite to me in the railway carriage. Propa¬ 
ganda will be the real origin of what I regard as my own personal political 
ideals, I am not, in my natural State, nearly so much of a person as I like to 
believe: most of what I call "me" can be very easily explained. It is when I turn 
to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a 
real personality of my own. At the beginning I said there were Personalities in 
God. I will go further now. There are no real personalities anywhere else. Until 
you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to 
be found most among the most "natural" men, not among those who surren¬ 
der to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors 
have been: how gloriously different are the saints. 

But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away "blind¬ 
ly" so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality: but you must 
not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what 
you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is 
to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ's 
and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you 
are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound 
strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. 
Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people 
until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even 
in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be origi¬ 
nal: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how 
often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original 
without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to 
bottom. Give up your self, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and 
you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes 
every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre 
of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that 
you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not 
died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in 
the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look 
for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.